Tuesday, February 7, 2023
HomeGovernment NewsPress Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

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1:44 P.M. EST
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I always hear, like, comments when I walk in, and it’s always so funny.  (Laughs.)
 
All right.  Good afternoon, everyone. 
 
Q    Good afternoon.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  For the second time in recent days, a California community has been devastated by a mass shooting and families are mourning loved ones lost to a senseless act of gun violence. 
 
As some of the victims’ families have said, we are starting Lunar New Year broken.  To read their stories is indeed heartbreaking.  Stories like the 65-year-old who went to the dance studio in Monterey Park on weekends because it’s what she loved to do.  And, tragically, her family said that Saturday was her last dance. 
 
We’ve read moving tributes for the former dance student who helped manage the studio from his fellow dancers and his teachers. 
 
A grandmother, whose family described how hard she worked to give back to her community and care for her loved ones, died after being taken to the hospital in critical condition. 
 
We have mourned lives lost in mass shootings after mass shootings.  The flags at the White House were already at half-mast in honor of those murdered in Monterey Park when we learned of the shooting in Half Moon Bay. 
 
President Biden, like most Americans, believes that this is an urgent issue; that too many of our neighbors, colleagues, kids are losing their lives to gun violence. 
 
Over the last two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officer and active-duty military combined.  And we know what the policy solutions are.  We know how we can address this. 
 
In fact, last night, Senator Feinstein, along- — alongside Senators Murphy, Blumenthal, and others, reintroduced a federal assault weapons — weapons and high-capacity magazine ban and legislation that would raise the minimum purchase age for assault weapons to 21. 
 
The last time we had an assault weapons ban on the books, thanks to the President and Senator Feinstein’s leadership, mass shootings actually went down.  After Republicans let it expire, mass shootings tripled.  And that’s just a fact. 
 
As you all know, President Biden has taken historic executive action to reduce gun violence.  And last summer, he signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the first significant piece of gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years. 
 
But he — but he continues to believe, and these tragic events continue to show us, there is more to be done to keep our homes, schools, and communities safe. 
 
The President and the First Lady are thinking of those killed and injured in these latest shootings across America.  But more importantly, he’s urging both chambers of Congress to act quickly and deliver this assault bans — assault weapons ban to his desk and take additional action to keep American communities, schools, workplace, and homes safe. 
 
I also wanted to share exciting news about the President’s economic plan continuing to create results for Americans across the country.  Today we learned 38 states are now at — are at or below 4 percent unemployment, and states from Pennsylvania to South Dakota to Alaska have record-low unemployment. 
 
We also know a record 10.7 million jobs were created in the last two years.  Annual inflation has fallen over the last six months.  The economic — the economy grew at 3.2 percent in the most recent GDP report.  And a record 10.5 million small businesses’ applications were filed since the President took office. 
 
And we’re continuing to lower healthcare costs for Americans.  A new report shows that if Inflation Reduction Act’s insulin cap were implemented in 2020, 1.5 million seniors across the country could have saved an average of $500 per year on insulin.
 
The Inflation Reduction Act’s health provisions, including permanent Affordable Care Act subsidies and Medicare negotiations down — Medicare negotiating down certain prescription drugs mean more money in Americans’ pockets and more breathing room for American families. 
 
As the President said in a statement this morning, and I quote, “Americans are seeing a strong economy where they live.  They are seeing their neighbors back to work with higher wages even accounting for inflation.  They’re seeing prices down at their pharmacies.  They’re seeing new businesses opening with” the most — “with most Americans applying to start small businesses at any time on record.”  End quote.
 
And finally, I wanted to say hello and welcome to the Park School of Baltimore students — they are lined up to my left here — who are here for — for their — their Career — Career Exploration Day. 
 
And welcome.  Welcome, students.  I had an opportunity to meet all of you.  Very impressive.  And I know high school can be a lot of fun but also very hard.  Just stay focused, keep your passion, and you’ll get there.  So, good to see you all. 
 
With that, Aamer, good to see you.
 
Q    Good to see you.  So, first, I just wanted to ask: Is there any reaction to Vice President Pence’s announcement of finding classified docs in his possession?
 
And then, more broadly, most of the rules surrounding classification are created and can be amended by executive order.  Does the President believe the system must be reformed?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first, on your first question, look, I’m not going to comment on any ongoing criminal investigation or any investigation.  As you all know, the Department of Justice is independent, and we will not politically interfere. 
 
We’ve been very, very clear about that under this President.  The President has been very clear since his campaign promises.  And so, I’m just going to refer you to the Department of Justice. 
 
On your second question, I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.
 
Q    Can I ask one on Ukraine?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure.
 
Q    Is the administration ready to give Abrams to Ukraine in order — I just — one — all right — is the administration ready to give the Abrams?
 
And two: If you are, is there — has it been connected with Germany also giving Leopards?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to say we are in constant communications with Ukraine and other allies and partners as it relates to what Ukraine needs in the battlefield, but I don’t have any preview — anything to preview here, any announcements to make at this time, or any new types of security assistance to preview for you today.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Following up from yesterday, has the President invited the Justice Department to search his Rehoboth Beach house?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office, who have been regularly in touch with all of you answering these questions, about — about this legal ongoing matter.  I just don’t have anything to share.
 
Q    And a couple follow-ups on the Pence issue.  Does the White House believe that the Justice Department should appoint a Special Counsel to investigate former Vice President Pence’s handling of classified documents?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s for the Department of Justice to decide. 
 
Q    And now that we’re seeing the two most recent Vice Presidents discover classified documents in their private homes, does this suggest that there’s a larger problem within the government where classified documents are not where they’re supposed to be?  Do a lot of people have documents outside of where they’re properly supposed to be stored?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to comment from — from here on that.  I would refer you to the White House Counsel on any- — anything related to classified documents from here. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  On the issue of gun control, you spoke about the President’s commitment to an assault weapons ban and his view that there is more that can be done.  How does — how do, I should say, the limitations in Congress — i.e. with the votes that you have or don’t have in Congress — impact that view?
 
And what — can you be more specific about what he thinks can be done, given the votes that he has now?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I just want to remind folks that this is a President who has made gun violence and dealing with gun violence his — his career. 
 
And he’s actually been very — very instrumental in pushing — pushing forward these types of gun reforms that we have seen, whether it is what we saw with the assault weapons ban 30 years ago that he — he helped get done with Senator Feinstein, or signing the bipartisan piece of legislation that he signed into law just months ago that was, again, the most significant piece of — piece of legislation that dealt with gun violence. 
 
And, let’s not forget, he has made this a priority for — for him in his presidency since day one with historic executive action. 
 
So, I say all of this to say this is a priority for the President.  When folks thought we wouldn’t be able to get a bipartisan deal done on dealing with gun violence, that was able to — that was a — that was able to get done with — because of the President’s leadership on this, because of the President’s focus on this. 
 
Look, we’re always looking for — his team is always looking for ways to — to do — to continue with gun — to do executive actions to deal with reducing gun violence.  But what we believe is that Congress needs to act.  They need to put forth legislation that can go into law and deal with this issue. 
 
We cannot continue to see communities be devastated by this.  As a parent, we should not be waking up every morning worried that our child or our kids may have to deal with gun violence.  If you’re going to the grocery store, you should not have to worry about going to the grocery store and potentially having to deal with gun violence, or going to the movies — watching a movie with your partner or with your kids and eating popcorn and wa- — and potentially having to worry about gun violence. 
 
And so, the President has been very clear.  And this is not just the last two years; this has been the — many decades of his career. 
 
So, we’re going to have — continue to have those conversations with Congress.  We’re going to continue to call on Congress to take action.
 
Q    On a separate topic, U.S. officials have determined that Chinese companies have been sending non-lethal assistance to Russia for Ukraine.  What is the United States saying to the Chinese government about this?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’re closely monitoring the situation, as we have been since the war started.  We will continue to communicate to China the implications of providing material support to Russia’s war against Ukraine.
 
We — we have talked about this — about this many times that we — we will, you know, be very clear what it means to support Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.  And as I’ve said many times, as my colleagues from NSC have said many times, we’ll continue to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people as long as needed. 
 
Q    But what are those implications?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into diplomatic or private conversations from here.  I’m just going to let you know that we’ve been monitoring the situation.  And we’ve been very clear with — with the Chinese government on this.
 
Go ahead. 
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  When you talk about how gun violence has been a priority for this administration, it’s been a priority for the President over his entire career, how does he feel in moments like last night?  Like, is it frustration?  Is it helplessness?  Personally, how does he deal with this continuing to be a major problem in the country?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, Phil, I would say that you have seen him out there, sadly, with many of these tragedies, mourning with the families, offering his support to families.  And it is — it continues — you’ll — you continue to — what you see from him is certainly how he feels when he sees these types of travesties. 
 
You saw that in Uvalde, sadly, when we saw kids were gunned down, where families had to identify — the way they were — identify their own children was through DNA.  That’s how horrible that situation was. 
 
You saw him in Buffalo, New York, meeting with the 10 members — the 10 victims who were killed, and him meeting with those families and dealing with their heartache. 
 
And so, this is a President that feels — right? — that is able to feel what people are going through, because he knows what loss means to families. 
 
So, yeah, you know, he wants to continue to fight.  He wants to continue to speak out against this.  You’ve seen his statements over the last several days, sadly, and what we have seen with gun violence across the country.  And so, you’ll continue to see that. 
 
And he will continue to speak about this in a way that lifts up the families who are — who are dealing with this loss — a very devastating loss — and continue to call on Congress to take action. 
 
Q    And then, one more shot on the — on the Pence documents.  Is there any sense inside the White House that this perhaps shifts the political or public perception dynamics of what the President has been facing over the course of the last several weeks?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to comment from here. 
 
Go ahead, Joey. 
 
Q    Yeah.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  Sorry, I thought you were there yesterday, Joey.
 
Q    Yeah, I know.  I saw.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But it was Michael.  I apologized to Michael.
 
Q    I forgive you.  (Laughter.)
 
It — do you have any update on whether the President plans to visit California?  I know you were asked yesterday.  But since then, there’s — as we’ve noted, there was a second mass shooting there.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I — no plans at this time to preview about a president — presidential travel to California.  You saw his statement.  I just kind of read part of his statement.  His heart — his heart goes out to the families, to the victims of the families.  And — and we will continue to fight to make sure we deal with this issue, we deal with gun violence. 
 
We started with the executive actions — the historic executive actions that the President was able to do the first two years of his administration. 
 
We were able to, again, as I mentioned, sign a bipartisan piece of legislation to deal with gun violence.  But we need to do more.  We need to do a lot more. 
 
And so, the President is going to continue to call for that.  I don’t have anything to preview about a trip to California.
 
Q    Yeah, and you kind of alluded this — or asked a little bit about this.  But what is the strategy now to pass the weapon — the assault weapons ban that Feinstein introduced?  I mean, you’re talking, of course, about a Republican-led House now.  And so, how — I mean, you know, what — what can the White House do to actually overcome those numbers now?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, and one thing I just want to go back to on California: The President has been in touch with local and state leaders, and his team continues to offer support to the local government and, clearly, Governor Newsom’s team in any way that we can to be helpful to what they’re dealing with today — this week, I should say.
 
Look, it is — you know, it is a priority for the President.  It really is.  That’s why he’s taken executive actions.  That’s why his team has worked with Congress on this bipartisan legislation that was passed several months ago.  And he’ll continue to do that. 
 
And, you know, I think, if you all remember — and many of you reported this, that — how difficult it was going to be for the President to get any bipartisanship the first two years of his administration, and he was able to get historic pieces of legislation done. 
 
And so, the President says this all the time: He is an — he’s optimistic.  And, you know — and I think optimism is very important to this President.
 
But at the same time, he’s going to continue to ask Congress to act.  And — and he’s going to continue to see what other executive actions can be taken from here. 
 
But at the end of the day, we need Congress act.  We need legislation that can be signed into law to deal with a matter that is really tearing apart communities.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Was the White House aware before this afternoon that classified documents had been found at Vice President Pence’s residence as well?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.
 
Q    And does the White House believe that other former high office holders should now go back and check their personal residences out of an abundance of caution to make sure that they’re not holding on to classified documents as well?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s not something I can comment from here.  I don’t even — we don’t — I don’t even know the — you know, the reasoning of what the news that we heard about Pence.  So, I’m just not going to comment from here. 
 
I’m not going to comment on any other former elected official, current elected official. 
 
With this particular case, I refer you to Department of Justice.  Anything that relates to this White House, I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office. 
 
Q    And then, on the Abrams tank, last week at the podium, John Kirby said that the Abrams is expensive to maintain, to operate, to fuel, and that it requires a lot of training.  Does this White House still have those same concerns when it comes to providing tanks to the Ukrainians?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as my DOD colleagues have said very recently, that — again, nothing to preview from here.  Certainly, don’t have anything to share.  But they never ruled out tanks.  I just want to make that very clear. 
 
I think what my colleagues at the DOD have said in the past very recently is that there’s — there were always challenges with tanks.
 
But I’m not going to preview anything.  I think I would refer you to the DOD comments on this.  Again, there have always been challenges.  It’s never been taken off the table.  But as I just mentioned, I don’t have anything to preview. 
 
Q    Those are the challenges.  What are the benefits to potential of acquiring tanks?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, we’ve already — we’ve always said — again, nothing to preview.  Want to be very clear here.  We’ve always said that we are in constant communication with Ukraine, as they’re — as they’re trying to figure out what they need on the battlefield.  And — and we are always looking for ways to offer security — security assistance for them. 
 
And so, again, not going to get ahead of any — any potential announcement.  I’m not — don’t have anything for you to preview for — to preview, but we’re always in constant communication with Ukraine and what it is that they need for their success, what it is that they need to really battle the aggression that we have seen from — from Russia this almost past year.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Germany’s ruling party just confirmed that they’ve decided to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine.  Do you have any comment on that?  And is that linked to, in any way, a reversal of this consideration of U.S. government sending Abrams to Ukraine as well?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we have said this before: We believe it’s up to each individual country.  It is their own sovereign — sovereign decisions on what they provide for Ukraine.  We’ve been very clear about that.  And we always appreciate what our allies or partners are doing to make sure that Ukraine is able to defend itself. 
 
I’m not going to go beyond that.  Again, don’t have anything to preview from here.
 
Q    And then, switching topics.  On Ticketmaster, there was this hearing in the Senate today.  Given the White House’s concern about monopoly power, you know, does the White House believe the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger should be unwound, given what we’ve heard today from senators expressing that concern as well?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Are you a “Swifty”?  Is that what it’s called?  I don’t know.  (Laughter.)
 
Q    I’m asking on behalf of all the Swifties, Karine.  (Laughter.)
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Things that you learn. 
 
So, look, President Biden is a strong proponent of increasing competition in our economy.  As he said last year when he signed the landmark executive order on competition, and I quote, “The heart of American capitalism is a simple idea: open and fair competition,” but “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation.”
 
So, I’ll say one more thing about the executive order.  It establishes a whole-of-government effort to promote competition in the American economy, because we know the lack of competition leads to higher prices and worse service. 
 
So, again, you know, capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation.  And that’s why he’s made — he’s really made an effort with his executive actions to deal with something that truly matters to the American people.
 
Q    Does the same concern apply to —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And the Swifties, apparently.   (Laughter.)
 
Q    Does the same concern apply to Google, which is facing a new DOJ action today?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to get into DOJ action or what DOJ is potentially — any legal matters that they potentially are taking.  What I will say is — more broadly, is how the President is a proponent for increasing competition in our economy, and he has shown that through his actions.
 
Q    On gun violence, you’ve mentioned the potential for further executive action.  Is there an active review underway of other potential executive actions?  Where is this being worked on within the administration?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t have anything to share on any active review. 
 
What I can say is that the President has asked his team to do all they can through executive action to reduce gun violence.  We’ve seen him make his- — historic progress via executive action to deal with this dangerous violence that we’re seeing — gun violence, specifically, that we’re seeing across the country in dangerous hands. 
 
So, we’ll continue to pursue executive actions to reduce gun violence.  I don’t have anything right now to share or preview or list out what is it that we’re exactly looking at, but his team is always looking at ways to improve — to deal with an issue, again, that is devastating communities across the country. 
 
But I also want to be very, very clear here.  In order to deal with this, we need Congress to act.  And that’s the way that we’re really going to be able to deal with a matter that is, again, devastating communities, devastating families across the country.
 
Q    On documents, I realize you don’t want to comment on existing issues, but there is clearly an ongoing issue across administrations with handling of classified materials.  Perhaps this isn’t the right time for this White House to lead a review of U.S. policy on classified materials, but is that something that that the White House is considering?  Is there someone who would be the right person to lead a review of the current challenges that are obviously tripping up people from all parties?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I understand the question, and I know it’s going to come in many different ways, but I’m going to refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office, who would be the best — they will be the best folks to talk through about that.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thank you, Karine.  I want to follow up on Ukraine.  The administration has been relatively successful in forming alliances not just in Europe, but in Asia as well — Australia, New Zealand, and Japan — against Russia, of course, and imposing economic sanction.  But is the White House satisfied with the military assistance that these countries are giving? 
 
I know you’re going to say it’s a sovereign state that they can decide for themselves.  But, at this point, as we are approaching the one-year anniversary, are you satisfied with what you asked from alliances to give to Ukraine militarily?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, we’ve always been very appreciative of our allies and partners in their efforts to help Ukraine and what they have decided their security assistance is going to be for Ukraine.  And so, we will continue to be appreciative.  We will continue to thank them. 
 
Again, and you said it in your question to me, it is a sovereign decision.  It is up to each individual country to decide how are they going to do their part in helping Ukraine fight against Russia’s aggression.
 
But, you know, these are our allies.  These are our partners.  And we will continue to work with them closely to make sure that Ukrainians are able to fight this brutal war.
 
Q    What do you think is holding these alliances?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that last part.
 
Q    The alliances — are they still holding?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, we believe that they are. 
 
I’m going to go — I’m going to come back down.  Go ahead, Steve.
 
Q    Thanks.  It being the White House’s position for the last several weeks that the President’s legal team did the right thing, is it the initial observation of the White House that the Pence legal team did the right thing?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s not for me to comment on from here.  I would refer you to the Department of Justice.
 
Q    One of the things that Pence team seems to have done in the last week is make public disclosure of the circumstance.  They advised NARA but also advised Congress and now the public.  Any reflections among the communications and press staff here as to how the Pence team handled it versus how
you guys handled it?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Steve, I understand your question, and I hear it.  We’ve had — we’ve answered your question in many different variations.  I’m just not — don’t have anything else to share from here. 
 
If you have any more specifics or details about this, about the ongoing legal matter, I would refer you to Department of Justice.  Anything else I would refer to the White House Counsel’s Office.
 
Q    Why did you not talk about it for two months?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks.  Did — does the White House have a response to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s surprise trip to Jordan today and meeting with King Abdullah?  And do you think it could help reduce tensions in the region?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I have not seen those reports.  I’ve not been able to talk to our National Security Council about it.  But clearly, we are, as you know, Jake — Jake Sullivan just recently went to Israel to meet with his counterparts to continue the very important relationship we have with Israel.  Just don’t have anything further. 
 
It — we normally don’t comment on — on individual countries meeting and the agenda that they have with other countries.  But don’t have anything specific to share on that.
 
Q    Can you say anything more about what’s on the agenda today with — for the meeting at three o’clock with Democratic leadership (inaudible)?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, the President is very much looking forward to meeting with the new Democratic leadership.  And that is happening pretty soon — less than — I don’t even know — less than an hour. 
 
And so, he’s going to host them in the Roosevelt Room.  You’re going to hear from him at the top.  He’ll have something to share about his thoughts about the meeting. 
 
They’ll cover a wide range of issues, especially how we can make even more economic progress on top of what our shared accomplishments have led to: the creation of over 10.7 million new jobs and 10 million small business — business starts, bringing down inflation, and a record number of Americans enrolling in healthcare coverage.
 
One of the main avenues for doing that is ramping up implementation of the legislation they accomplished together over the past two years.  When you think of inflation — the Inflation Reduction Act, when you think about the continuing implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, that’s what — one of the topics that certainly — that will come up.
 
And look, the President has said this — he said this after the midterm elections, he said this many times, I’ve said this — he is — he is looking forward to working with Republicans in good faith to continue the work that he has been able to do the last two years, some in a bipartisan way, to deliver for the American people.
 
But, look, he’s also going to call out, as we have said this before, continue to call out any — any dangerous, extreme MAGA Republicans.  He can do both.  But — like proposals to raise taxes on the middle class or cut Medicare; cut Social Security, as we’ve been hearing from — from national Republicans; or also — I mean, let’s not forget the national ban — national abortion ban; or worsen inflation.
 
And so, those are the things that the President is very focused on.  And I think the most important thing that I think you can take away from this is: He wants to continue to deliver for the American people.  He’s doing — he’s willing to do that in a bipartisan way, but it has to be in good faith. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    That was one of my questions about the preview.  But one of the things I wonder is — the President has received some Democratic criticism about how he has handled some of the things that he has said about the documents’ matter.  Do you expect that he might address that with the Democratic leaders?  Because it’s obviously got political implications for just how he’s perceived and perhaps some of his political strength going forward?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I kind of talked about this, Kelly O, a little bit yesterday and some — some of those same criticism from — from Democrats.  They also said the President — they believe the President did what he needed to do and handled — has handled it fully and in a cooperative way.
 
But, look, I — you know, as it relates to the politics of this, as it relates to the American people — and, you know, we’ll continue to say this: It’s up to the American people to decide.  They — you know, they’re smart.  They know what’s going on.  They know what this President has been doing and delivering on.
 
You know, we’ve talked about the midterms and what it was supposed to be and what was predicted to be, and it didn’t happen.  Right?  When you think about the red — the red wave that we had heard over and over again.
 
And part of that — why we didn’t see that — is because the President led with a message that resonated and connected with the American people.  He led with what he has been able to do when it comes to the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, when it comes to making sure that we’re — he’s doing the work to lower costs at the gas pump, which he has been able to do.
 
And so, look, we will let the American people see for themselves what the President has been able to deliver the last two years.  I’m just not going to get into fur- — into any further discussion about policies from here.
 
Q    Specifically, do you know if he has been briefed on the Pence matter?  And has he had any outreach with former President Obama, since some of the documents would have been from their joint administration?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, those two questions, I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  After a Special Counsel was named but before the FBI searched, President Biden went to his house in Wilmington.  What was he doing in there?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the White House Counsel. 
 
Q    So, it was something relating to this case?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office. 
 
Q    Okay.  Do you think that this story was leaked by someone trying to bruise the President politically ahead of a reelection announcement?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office, as they have been the ones who’ve been
closely involved.
 
Q    Okay.  More basically, we know the President did it.  Why did he do it?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.
 
Q    In the President’s own words, he admits to having information that wasn’t his.  Why did he smuggle it out?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I will let the statement of the President stand for itself.  I’m just not going to go into a rabbit hole — down a rabbit hole with you on this.
 
Q    But, Karine, why did he not talk about it for months?
 
Q    Karine, yes, thanks.  Slight shift of topic: Haiti.  The U.N. Envoy to Haiti has just been saying today that it’s basically out of control.  The gangs run — well, they don’t really run anything, but they’re in charge.  Can we expect any shift from the — you know any, maybe, up-tempo of the U.S. response to this, given not just the humanitarian side, but maybe the national security aspect for the U.S.?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything new to share on any new announcement or engagement. 
 
Look, this is something that we have been monitoring very closely.  And we have done, you know, everything that we can to — you know, in this time, to help the Haitian people, to help in a way that could really make a difference in the humanitarian aid, as you — as you just laid out.  And — and I just don’t have anything else to share beyond what you laid out.
 
But this is truly a — important to the President and — what’s going on in Haiti.  And you’ve heard us talk about it in — you know, over the past several months.  You heard the President talk about this at NALS when he was in Mexico City. 
 
When he met with the Canadian Prime Minister, when he met with the President of Mexico, it was clearly on the agenda and a conversation that they had.  We had a readout on that specifically.  It was brought up in the — in the press conference that they had. 
 
I just don’t have anything further to share.
 
Q    Karine, since you don’t have any answer on the classified documents —
 
    MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead. 
 
Q    — are you still a great fit for this job?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead, my friend.
 
Q    Because we don’t seem to have any answer from you.
 
Q    Is the press briefing a waste of time?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead, my friend.
 
Q    Has any meeting been set between the President and the Speaker yet?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a meeting to announce from here with Speaker McCarthy.  I know that it is — we’ve commented on this.  This is something that the President is certainly looking forward to. 
 
And, look, he’s willing and wants to work with the Speaker in good faith, in delivering in a bipartisan way for the American people.  I don’t have anything to preview at this time.
 
Q    Would that be before or after the State of the Union?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This is something that he would —
 
As you know, it’s tradition — right? — for the President to meet with the new Congress before the State of the Union.  I just don’t have anything to share at this time.
 
Q    On the meeting that will happen, I know that when the President spoke about it, it was in the context of the deficit and debt, having those conversations.  Is that sort of what the engagement would be limited to?  Or would the President want to expand out the — you know, you’ve talked a lot about gun violence or the border. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, there’s going to be a range of issues that’s going to be discussed.  As you mentioned, when he was talking about the deficit, he was talking about wanting to work in a bipartisan way to continue to lower the debt — right? — which he has been able to do by $1.7 trillion in a historic record.  He’s always willing to have good-faith conversation to deliver for the American people in that way.
 
But when it comes to — look, when it comes to the debt limit, the debt ceiling, the President has been very clear, I have been very clear, you’ve heard from our economics team about that — how this should be done without conditions.  That still stands.
 
And we can’t forget that — and I talked about this a little bit yesterday — the debt ceiling has been dealt with 78 times since 1960; 49 times under a President — Republican president; and 29 times with a Democratic President.
 
And let’s not also forget — I think this is something that people who — need to understand — when you talk about
the debt ceiling, you’re talking about not more — new spending.  You’re talking about what Congress — what — the bill that Congress has racked up.  Right?  This is — this is their basic duty to — you know, to deal with the debt ceiling.
 
When the President walked in — well, if you look at the debt ceiling right now, 90 percent of it was before the President walked into office.  So, this is their duty.  This is their duty to do this in a bipartisan way.  That’s what we’re talking about.
 
And when you’re — when Republicans are saying they’re going to — they want to cut Social Security, they want to cut Medicare, they want to cut programs that Americans have paid into, that’s going to hurt senior citizens, that’s going to hurt our veterans, that’s going to hurt taxpayers.
 
And so, that’s what we’re talking about.  And so, it is their basic duty to deal with this.
 
Go ahead, Steven.  
 
Q    Oh, thank you, Karine.  I have two questions.  The first: New York Congressman Nick LaLota is skipping tonight’s presidential reception for new members of Congress in protest of White House coronavirus rules that require an attestation of vaccination and a negative test result.  LaLota says the rules are arbitrary and unscientific and should be far behind us.  Does the White House have a reaction to that?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I haven’t seen those — that reporting or those comments from the congressman.  But I’ll say this: We have protections in place to protect staff and the President of the United States.  COVID isn’t over.  We’ve been very clear about that.  Hundreds of Americans are dying every day, and cases are increasing right now, today.
 
That’s why we take commonsense measures, like COVID testing ahead of large indoor gatherings at the White House.  And so, this is an important — an important issue that’s been important, when we’re talking about COVID and dealing with COVID and coming up with comprehensive ways to make sure that people get vaccinated.  That’s something that the President dealt with from day one of his administration.
 
Q    And if I could just follow up very briefly on that.  I’m curious if there was a reason that we still have the vaccine attestation rule, especially considering the very highly transmissible Omicron mutations that can elude most of the common vaccines.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what I can tell you, Steven, is we listen to the experts, and we look at the data, and we — you know, we pay very close attention to science.  And I just don’t have anything to say beyond that.  That is something that our experts — we take their advice when it comes to things like that.
 
Q    Karine, my second question is regarding a comment from Senator Ted Cruz.  He’s calling for a search of President Biden’s Senate records at the University of Delaware for potentially classified information.  Those records reportedly include about 1,850 boxes of documents, as well as 415 gigabytes of electronic files.  Does President Biden have any objection to such a search?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  When it comes to the documents and this ongoing legal matter, I refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.
 
Q    I would — I’d just like to read —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  You just —
 
Q    I’m so sorry.  I’d just like to read —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You said you had two.  You’ve had four.  (Laughs.)
 
Q    I’d just like to read out the request of our colleagues in this room for someone to answer these questions from the podium.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Absolutely.  Okay.  Go ahead.
 
Q    Karine, thanks.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll come to you.  Go ahead.
 
Q    Karine, the Oversight Chair, he had — Mr. Comer — he wrote — he wrote the head of the Secret Service, asking for the visitor information from Wilmington.  Now, I know you said there’s no visitor logs, but do you have any object- — or does the White House have an objection to the Secret Service providing any documents or communication about who’s going in and out?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office on any — anything that’s related to the investigation, the Oversight hearing that’s happening.
 
Q    And then, just at the top, in response to the Pence question, you said you weren’t going to comment on any ongoing criminal or other investigations.  There’s — is there any reason to believe any of these are criminal investigations?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just saying I’m just not going to — I’m just not going to comment on any type of investigation.  The Department of Justice is independent, and we just don’t comment on any, any investigations from here.
 
Q    Yes, Karine, on gun violence, it’s very clear to everybody that gun is a problem in this country.  I’m going to give you an example.  In Africa, when we see news from the U.S., like a six-year-old boy bringing gun to school, and we see people going to the movie theater and being killed by gun, and also see people in this country that have not seen war but are killed by gun, is extremely scared for us.  And we have seen that this country is very developed. 
 
What do you think is preventing the Congress to act when it comes to gun control?  And what can more President Biden do to move on and do something to control the gun? 
 
And my question comes because I’m a mother.  I have two daughters.  And when they go to school, sometimes I’m afraid that maybe his little colleague from school will bring a gun or even in random place we get shot.  This is very, very scared.  And this is a problem.  And we saw, recently, people also dying by gun. 
 
What can President do more to move on and control the guns?  And, please, why do you think that Congress is waiting to act?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, when it relates to the Congress, you have to ask Congress.  You have to go over to Congress and meet with congressional members and ask them that very question.  Lay it out just the way that you laid it out to me.  I think it’s an important question for them to answer.
 
But also, we saw, last night, Senator Feinstein, along with Senators Murphy and Blumenthal, reintroduce the assault weapons ban, which we support and we encourage for Congress to act on that — on that piece of legislation.
 
Look, again, I would refer — I would suggest you go talk to them about this.  Look, you just laid out what I just said, right?  You just laid out about going to the movie theaters and being worried about gun violence.  You just laid out about being a parent and worrying about your child going to school or going to the grocery store and worry about gun violence.  That is something that we should not have to deal with. 
 
And this is something — again, if you look at the President’s record as a senator, you look at his first two years as President, he’s dealt with this issue. 
 
And — and he’s going to continue to do what he can from here, use the tools of the federal government to take action.  He has taken historic executive actions, as I just laid out moments ago. 
 
But when it comes to really, truly dealing with this issue, we need legislation.  We need legislation.  We need Congress to act. 
 
So we are thankful and we are hopeful to see what occurred with this legislation that was introduced, again, by Senators Feinstein, Blumenthal, and Murphy.  And we’re going to continue to encourage Congress to act.
 
But I would — I would pose the question that you just asked me to Congress.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Karine, just to follow up quick, still on gun violence.  We have spoke — like, between me and some friends — that in this country — and this — I’m making this point because we need to remind people that America is the only country on Earth that people die by gun without even being in war.  Because — I’m giving this example because, in Africa, there is countries in war, but people doesn’t even have access to gun.  It’s very hard, because the government and everybody is very conscious that the guns can cause a lot of destruction. 
 
But in this country, it’s very normal for everybody to have access to gun, and this needs to be controlled. 
 
But what can people like me, common people, can also — what can we do to help control gun in this country?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, what I can speak to: There are many ways that people can get involved in — in dealing with the gun violence that we’re seeing here.  I’m not going to make any suggestions, but there are ways that folks can go out there and — and participate in a way that’s healthy, in the way that actually helps deal with a real issue. 
 
What I can speak to is what the President has done.  What I can speak to is what the President believes.  What I can speak to is the President’s record on this, which is — you can see for yourself — as a senator, this last two years as President and the executive actions that he’s taken.  He signed a bipartisan piece of legislation, as I just mentioned moments ago, to deal with — in taking one step to deal with gun violence. 
 
And so, look, that’s what I can speak to.  That’s what we can talk about very clearly.  And we are going to continue to discuss and have a conversation and call on Congress to act. 
 
All right, go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  We heard you talk about the statements that President Biden took out — put out, but why haven’t we heard the President address the American people on camera about these recent shootings?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He’s taken — which one?
 
Q    About these — the shootings that have happened recently.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I mean, he has — he’s talked about it many times, as you know.  And I’m sure you’ll hear from him in the upcoming days to — to talk about what he has seen and how devastating the gun violence, especially this week, has been. 
 
And, look, you’ve seen him, as I mentioned, in Uvalde, when he was comforting the parents of the kids who were — who were murdered. 
 
You saw him in Buffalo, when he was, again, comforting families who saw their family member murdered. 
 
And it’s been too many.  Too many.  And so you’ll continue to hear from us. 
 
I think when the President puts out a statement, that is a very powerful — a powerful action by the President.  You all take it; you all repeat what the President has said.  So I wouldn’t — I would take that as a serious — a serious communication for the President, as you all already do.  And he’ll continue to speak out about it. 
 
Q    And have you spoken with the President about the most recent report that more documents were found at his home, personally?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I have not.
 
Q    Is that intentional?
 
Q    Why didn’t Biden tell you (inaudible) about the documents?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead. 
 
Q    Does the White House have a response to former Secretary — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, in his new book and in a tweet sent this afternoon, has referred to Jamal Khashoggi as an “activist” and a “part-time stringer for the Washington Post”? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m going to — I’m going to let Mr. Pompeo speak for himself.
 
Here’s what I will say and what we will say from the White House about this — about this issue: From the earliest days of this administration, we took the murder of Jamal Khashoggi very seriously.  That included releasing intelligence community report on the murder, which was not done in the last administration; sanctioning a number of Saudi officials and entities; and instituting the so-called Khashoggi Ban. 
 
Again, I will let Mr. Pompeo speak for himself. 
 
Q    Do you think Jamal Khashoggi — would you consider him an activist?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get — he’s — I’m not going to get into describing Jamal Khashoggi.
 
I can tell you how we acted and what we have done over the past two years and — and be very clear on what the White House has take — the actions that White House has taken. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thank you so much.  Another Africa question for you today.  With news that the U.N. Ambassador is heading to the continent and Janet Yellen is there right now, what messages are these two top Cabinet officials trying to send to African countries broadly?  How do you combat concerns and perceptions that the continent is yet again being used as a battlefield for a proxy war between East and West?  And then also, how do these visits lay the groundwork for the President’s promised visit to the continent?  And any details on that would be awesome. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, to your last question first: I don’t have anything to preview about the President’s visit — potential visit to South — to Africa.  We have said that he is going to make a visit; just don’t have anything to share at this — at this time. 
 
So our partnership in Africa is not about — about other nations.  Our partnership there, it’s — as demonstrated by our commitments at the U.S.- Africa Leaders’ Summit, the United States sees African countries as genuine partners and wants to build relationship based on mutual respect. 
 
That’s what you saw at the summit.  And that’s what the President has been consistent on, and that’s what we want to see. 
 
Our focus is on Africa and our efforts to strengthen these partnerships across a wide range of sectors spanning from businesses to health to peace and security. 
 
Building on those efforts, we’ve had Secretary Blinken and Secretary Yellen travel to the region very recently. 
 
And as you noted, we have Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s upcoming travel to Ghana, Mozambique, and Kenya.  And that’s going to be from January 25th to the 29th. 
 
The Ambassador’s — this is going to be the Ambassador’s third trip to the Sub-Saharan Africa.  And since she took up her position as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, she’s gone three times under this current tenure that she’s currently doing. 
 
And you will continue to see us following through the President’s commitment and to step — and to step up our engagement across Africa this year and beyond. 
 
And, look, this is a commitment.  We saw it when we put the summit together with 49, 50 heads of states who were here, right here in D.C.  And that was over three days. 
 
And the President participated in the summits, his team participated in the summit, and we talked about issues that really mattered to the continent and issues that really mattered to us as well. 
 
Q    Can you just share why those specific countries were chosen?  You just mentioned Kenya, Mozambique, and Ghana.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I would refer you to — to the U.N., to the Ambassador’s office.  As I said, it’s her third trip.  Right?  So she’s gone two other times. 
 
And so I would refer you to their specific strategy on why these three countries. 
 
Go ahead, Courtney. 
 
Q    Thank you.  I wanted to ask if you have any information at this point about the release of the budget for next fiscal year. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, this — the President is looking forward to releasing his budget to the American people.  Clearly, that’s something that is important for this President to do. 
 
And the OMB — his team at the OMB is working very, very hard in — in getting that done and timing, and obviously his budget for 2024.  And — and don’t have any — don’t have a time for when this is going to happen.  But again, this is something that he wants to make sure that he — he wants to share with Congress and the American people, and it’s a priority to him. 
 
Q    It used to be at the beginning of February.  And when you entered the administration, I don’t think you all have met that deadline yet, or that timeframe yet.  Does that have anything to do with when last year’s appropriations were done?  I mean, what’s affecting why you wouldn’t have a date yet?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the omni- — omnibus — the timing of the omnibus late last year certainly has an impact on the budget’s timing, but certainly we’ll be in touch with when we’re ready to share the President’s 2024 budget.
 
Q    Thank you.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll go around.
 
Q    Thank you.  There was reporting from Japan that the U.S. decided it will not deploy land-based medium- and intermediate-range missiles to Japan.  Can you confirm this decision and say what is under consideration in terms of where the missiles will be deployed?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, according to the Department of Defense, there are no plans to deploy capabilities to Japan that range 500 — that range beyond 500 kilometers.  So, I don’t have anything more to share.  I would refer you to the Department of Defense.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    When the President speaks on the economy later this week, how much of that will be talking about his own record and how much will be warning about what Republicans in Congress want to do, such as the sales tax?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just a little bit of what he’s going to say — as I announced last week, for those who may have missed it. 
 
On Thursday, President Biden will deliver remarks on the economic progress we have made since he took office.  The President will contrast his plan to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, and to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare with the congressional Republican plan to cut Social Security, Medicare, and other vital programs and impose a 30 percent national sales tax that will increase taxes on working families. 
 
His remarks, will — will be in Springfield, Virginia, with union workers who are benefiting from his economic plan.
 
And so, we’ll have more to share on that tomorrow.  But, again, as you — as you just heard me lay out, it’s going to be a contrast with what we’re trying to do and what the — with what the Republicans have laid out.
 
But again, the President has always been very clear: He’s willing to work in good faith with — in a bipartisan way with Republicans to continue to deliver on the economic successes that you’ve seen from this administration in the last two years.
 
Okay.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  I want to ask about the — follow up on the story of Chinese companies providing assistance for Russia.  Did you have a clear sense whether the Chinese government is aware or approving this or not?
 
And my second question is on Turkey.  Can you please answer this —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I’m sorry.  Can you say your first question again?  It’s just hard to hear because you’re —
 
Q    Yes.  About that Chinese companies providing assistance for Russia.  Do you have a clear sense whether the Chinese government is aware of that or not?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can’t speak to that: if the Chinese government is aware of that or not.  We’re closely monitoring the situation, as I just stated earlier, as we have been since the war started.  And we will continue to communicate to China the implican- — implications of providing material support to Russia’s war against Ukraine.  Don’t have anything specific on what they know or not know, but we’re certainly always communicating with them.
 
Q    And on Turkey, yesterday, President Erdoğan said that Sweden should not expect that Turkey would support Sweden to join NATO over Quran burning.  How do you respond to his comment and al- — and also to that incident?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I talked about this a little bit yesterday about what — how we see this.  And we have said before — many times before — that Finland and Sweden are ready to be NATO Allies.  That’s how we see things.  Both are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace and NATO’s Enhanced Opportunities Partnership.  Their militaries work seamlessly with Alliances’ forces.
 
Finland and Sweden have already taken concrete steps to fulfill the commitments they made under the trilateral memorandum of agreement with Türkiye, signed on the margins of the NATO summit in Madrid, as you all know.  And that includes substantially strengthening their bilateral cooperation with Türkiye on key security concerns.
 
We continue to expect that NATO will formally welcome Finland and Sweden as members.  This will enhance their security, as well as that of the Euro Alliance region. 
 
So, as their membership process continues, the United States is fully committed to Finland’s and Sweden’s accession.  (A reporter sneezes.)  The strength of that support — bless you — can be seen in our Senate’s overwhelming bipartisan support for a vote for their membership. 
 
And that — and so, again, that’s — that’s where we stand on that particular matter.
 
Okay, go ahead.
 
Q    Thank you.  In the last several weeks, major IT companies — like Google, Microsoft, Amazon — have fired thousands of IT professionals.  A significant number of them are either Indian Americans or Indian IT professionals.  So, two questions.  These companies are saying that a recession is on the horizon; that’s why they’re firing these people.  Does the President think that there is a recession coming up?
 
And secondly, these Indian IT professionals who are on H-1B visa, they have to leave the country in 60 days.  These people who have the families and kids are studying here, their house and mortgage — they’re asking for more time to stay here so that they can find an alternative way to sustain them.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, more broadly — I’m just not going to speculate why companies — individual companies have made specific personnel decisions.  That is for them to speak to.  But, you know, you — you don’t have to make — take my word for it.  Our economy is continuing to grow in a steady and stable manner as we have — you’ve heard us from here.  And you just have to look at the economic data, when you look at the CPI data, you look at the PPI. 
 
And so, more broadly, again, when it comes to economy, layoffs remain near record lows, according to job opening data.
 
Again, I’m just not going to get into specifics on why this is happening.  This is something for indivi- — individual companies to speak to.
 
And — and, look, the President has said this many times:  He’s going to do everything that he can to make sure this is an economy that works for everyone, that works from the — from the bottom up and middle out.  And that’s what you’ve seen from his economic plans.
 
But, you know, the President understands firsthand how the impact of losing a job can have on a family.  He understands that very personally.  But I’m just not going to get into individual specifics.
 
Q    And the visa status of those who have been fired — how can they stay here in this country?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any specifics on — on that, when it comes to how they can stay here. 
 
What I can say is — speak more broadly about what we’re seeing through the data.  What — don’t want to comment on individual companies. 
 
We can — I can speak to what the — how the economy has actually been more of a stable and steady growth because of the President’s actions.
 
Go ahead, Laura.  Go ahead, Laura. 
 
Q    Hi.  Heading into this meeting with the congressional Democratic leaders, is there anything you can tell us about the relationship between President Biden and Leader Jeffries?  Obviously, we know about his relationship with Speaker Pelosi before, and he goes way back with Schumer.  But what kind of relationship, if any, does he have with Congressman Jeffries?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President sees Congressman Jeffries — Leader Jeffries as a vital partner in this and is looking forward to continuing to — to work with the congressman and also is proud to work with — with the congressman closely as we — as we push forward on our shared agenda, our shared priorities in the 118th Congress.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Thanks, everybody.  We’ll see you tomorrow.  Thank you.
 
2:40 P.M. EST

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/01/24/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-12/

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