Apr 28, 2022
Jen Psaki holds White House press briefing 4/27/22 Transcript
Jen Psaki holds White House press briefing 4/27/22. Read the transcript here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:02)
Jen Psaki: (00:18)
Hi, everyone. Okay. I have no toppers today. Don’t be so disappointed. And I know we have a hard out for some people to gather, so we will all keep you updated on when that needs to happen. But Zeke, why don’t you kick us off?
Thanks, Jen. Just real quick, the President put out a statement this morning on the prisoner swap for the release of Trevor Reed. He said there were some difficult decisions that he had to make. Can you elaborate on what he meant? Is there a concern that this sort of arrangement incentivizes other countries to wrongfully detain Americans?
Jen Psaki: (02:56)
Well, first, let me say that it’s a huge moment today that speaks to President Biden’s commitment to bring home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained around the world. And he’s been clear since the beginning of this administration that he is committed to doing exactly that, to bringing Americans home. He’s brought home Americans from Venezuela, from Afghanistan, from Haiti, from Burma and now today, from Russia. And Trevor’s freedom is the result of months and months of hard, careful work across the US government. Now we’ll get to your question.
Jen Psaki: (03:27)
When he referenced the tough decision in his statement this morning, he was referencing the decision to commute the sentence of Konstantin Yaroshenko. I would emphasize that this individual had already served the majority of his prison sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. And our overriding priority here was the safe return of Trevor Reed, knowing not only had he been held against his will for too long, but that his health condition required urgent treatment. He’s going to be able to not only be reunited with his family, but to receive the treatment he needed from the United States. So again, our objective is to bring all Americans who are detained, who are held, who are away from their families home from overseas, but I’m not going to be able to preview for you what processes or approaches we’re going to take for those moving forward.
Is there a concern that now it’s not just detaining Americans, but wrongfully mistreating them, a lot of them get seriously ill, gives another country leverage over the United States in terms of creating another opportunity such as this, for this sort of prisoner swap?
Jen Psaki: (04:33)
Well, again, unfortunately, Zeke, there are Americans who are held in other places around the world who we are still working to bring home. And that has been the case long before the President. And importantly, our hostage negotiator took the steps to bring Trevor Reed home. So this has been going on for a long time, I guess is my larger point, and our effort and our objective was to take steps that we needed to take to bring him home, knowing his health conditions and knowing he’s been held for too long.
Different topic. Russia yesterday and today effectively carrying out that cutting off natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria. What’s the White House response to that and the additional steps the US government is taking to reassure its European allies that, maybe not so much now, but certainly when the weather turns later this year, that they will have the energy supplies they need?
Jen Psaki: (05:24)
Sure. Well, unfortunately, this is the type of step, the type of almost weaponizing energy supplies, that we had predicted that Russia could take in this conflict. That is why we, of course, have been in touch with Europe, with these countries, including over the last 24 hours with leaders in Poland and Bulgaria. And we have been working for some time now, for months, with partners around the world to diversify natural gas supply to Europe in anticipation of and to also address near term needs and replace volumes that would otherwise come from Russia.
Jen Psaki: (05:58)
I would note that last month in advance of this, the President launched a task force with the EU to target additional LNG volumes for Europe, including Poland and Bulgaria. This will help replace over time Russian gas to Europe, decreasing Europe’s dependence on Russia and Putin’s ability to use energy to coerce Europe. I would also note that Poland and Polish leaders have said they have the capacity through the reserves and other imports right now for the moment. And Bulgaria has said it is also looking at other import actions. So we are working and we have been working to address over the long term. We have been in touch with these leaders over the last 24 hours. And I would also note what they’ve said about what their capacities are for the current short term.
Jen Psaki: (06:37)
Speaker 1: (06:37)
Thanks, Jen. Has the President been in touch with or does he plan to reach out to Paul Whelan’s family, Brittney Griner’s family, any other families who have loved ones detained in Russia?
Jen Psaki: (06:46)
We have, of course, been in touch with their families over the course of time. I’m not going to detail those conversations further.
Speaker 1: (06:53)
But Paul Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, put out a statement today. He said, “If this case required difficult decisions that the President doesn’t take lightly, how difficult are the decisions he faces to release Paul?” What’s your response to the Whelan family?
Jen Psaki: (07:04)
Our response is that we are going to continue to do, the President is going to continue to do, our state department officials and negotiators are going to continue to do everything they can to bring Paul Whelan home.
Speaker 1: (07:14)
If I can just ask more follow up? The President, of course, met with Bri’s family here at the White House. Can you talk about the personal impact that that meeting might have had? Did he leave that meeting with a sense of urgency, renewed sense of urgency to get this done?
Jen Psaki: (07:26)
I would say the President has had a sense of urgency about bringing Americans home long before that meeting. Of course, he enjoyed that meeting he had with them. He also spoke with them on the phone when he went and traveled to Texas. And again, I know he was intending to reach out to them this morning as well.
Jen Psaki: (07:42)
Speaker 2: (07:43)
On the economy, we have a GDP print that’s coming out tomorrow that’s expected to show fairly marginal growth. There’s increasing expectations from banks, predictions that we’re entering a recession. Your budget plan had a focus on budget deficit reduction as opposed to fiscal stimulus. Is there any plan to change that as we see the threat of a recession looming?
Jen Psaki: (08:12)
Well, again, as I’ve said before on the recession question, obviously we look closely at economic data. We continue to believe that there are strong data in the economy, whether it’s record job growth, whether it is the current unemployment rate, and that is a result of the actions of the President. I would note on the GDP expectations for tomorrow, as you noted the market expectations and other analysts out there, do expect the growth to be slower in quarter one, which is what the data is being reported out tomorrow. Then in the fourth quarter of last year, this largely reflects the very strong pace of growth in the fourth quarter. When taken together, growth over the two quarters is expected to be at a solid pace if we look at it over time, which is how we look at data. And looking under the hood, the slowdown relative to quarter four, is mainly for technical reasons like the change in inventory. So last quarter companies built up their inventories very quickly and growth in inventories are expected to be slower, though still positive this quarter. This trend or this reasoning has been pointed out by a range of outside economists and forecasters, including former NEC director, Jason Furman.
Speaker 2: (09:20)
A quick follow up just on inflation. There’s been some numbers that have shown that the monthly interest payment that somebody pays when they take out a mortgage has basically doubled over the past year. You’ve talked about what you’re doing on meat price prices. But if you look at the grocery bill, pretty widely, there are many categories where we’re seeing double digit inflation, flour, coffee, fruit. Is there any strategy to deal with some of these other areas where we’re seeing kind of broad based inflation?
Jen Psaki: (09:49)
Well, I would say the President’s plan to address inflation or address causes or costs as they’ve gone up for the American people has many different components. Obviously, there’s an important purview that the Federal Reserve has and they’ve indicated their plans to recalibrate. We support that-
Jen Psaki: (10:03)
… reserve has and they’ve indicated their plans to recalibrate. We support that effort or steps they intend to take. And obviously they have previewer and they’ve predicted that inflation will come down and moderate before the end of the year. But how the American people experience inflation is costs, as you noted, whether it’s at the grocery store, other costs on their pocketbook. And the president has taken a number of steps to address costs, even extending the pause on student loans, which is something he did just a few weeks ago, the steps to fix the family glitch in the Affordable Care Act, so more people would be eligible for lower cost healthcare. And continuing conversations that are happening on Capitol Hill right now on his proposals to lower costs on childcare, healthcare, the cost of prescription drugs. These are all areas that impact and will help families as we’re working to bring costs down.
Kaitlan Collins: (10:50)
The president told Trevor Reed’s family that he had wanted to call them in the middle of the night last night but didn’t want jinx the release of their son. Can you tell us more about what’s been happening behind closed doors for the last 12 or 24 hours regarding this release?
Jen Psaki: (11:04)
Sure. I think what the president was referring to and I’ve… fortunately, because it’s a part of history and a great day, obviously, when you bring an American home. And the president has of course been a part of many of these in a much higher and more important role is just… There’s a lot of sensitivity, as you all know, around the period of time when individuals are in transit, when they are being brought to a third country. As we’ve noted, we are very grateful to Turkey for allowing the exchange to take place in their country. So basically, over the last 24 hours, one as I noted this, this had been happening over several months. So Roger Carstens, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, and his team, and many others had been negotiating and engaging in this.
Jen Psaki: (11:51)
And the exchange took place in Turkey during the early hours of the morning, East coast time. So I think what the president was referring to was his understanding and knowledge that that would be happening, but not wanting to put anyone in a position of putting that at risk, even people who are excited and joyful and looking forward to the news. Then once they got to Turkey and they were safely on a plane on their way back, we were able to obviously make notifications and phone calls and also put out the statement from the president to make all of you aware.
Kaitlan Collins: (12:24)
Were there any other conditions agreed to for Trevor Reed’s release, besides the release of this Russian?
Jen Psaki: (12:30)
This was a discussion about one issue and one topic, and that was the release of Trevor Reed.
Kaitlan Collins: (12:34)
But were there any other conditions agreed to besides releasing the Russian in exchange for Trevor Reed?
Jen Psaki: (12:39)
There was no other condition. There were no other conditions that I’m aware of.
Kaitlan Collins: (12:42)
And what does the White House read into Russia’s willingness to release Trevor Reed now, in the middle of this invasion of Ukraine?
Jen Psaki: (12:48)
Look, I think the release of Trevor Reed, him returning home to his family, receiving the healthcare that he has long needed, does not change our approach or view, opposition or the president’s intention to put forward a package in the coming days to help continue to support the Ukrainians. In terms of what they mean or how they assess it, I would leave it to them to speak to that.
Kaitlan Collins: (13:12)
Does it make anyone here at the White House more optimistic about what could be ahead or does it have nothing to do with this?
Jen Psaki: (13:18)
This was about one issue and topic, and I don’t think we should read into it further.
Speaker 3: (13:23)
Toward the back.
Jen Psaki: (13:23)
Yeah, we can come to the back in a moment. Go ahead, Weijia.
Weijia Jiang: (13:25)
Thanks Jen. To follow up on Mary Alice’s question, during an interview this morning, Trevor Reed’s parents said they believed that personal meeting with the president was the “tipping point,” that it made all the difference. Is that true?
Jen Psaki: (13:39)
Well, look, I would say anytime that a president meets with, or any official from the government meets with the parents or family members of someone who’s being detained, that impacts them personally. But this has been in negotiations for months.
Weijia Jiang: (13:54)
I spoke with David Whelan today and he is concerned that Reed’s release now narrows the chances for his brother’s release because Russia obviously wanted Yaroshenko’s release for years now. And now that it’s happened, he worries that that was a major concession that the US no longer has. So what do you say to the Whelan family?
Jen Psaki: (14:20)
We would say we will continue to advocate for the immediate and unconditional release of Paul Whelan at every opportunity and using wrongful detention as a bargaining chip represents a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad. We obviously oppose this practice anywhere and we are going to continue to do everything we can to bring him home.
Weijia Jiang: (14:38)
They are thrilled obviously about Trevor Reed’s release, but they can’t help but have some questions about why Paul Whelan, who’s been detained in Russia longer than Trevor Reed, is not home. Can you explain that and did Reed’s health, as you mentioned, have anything to do with it?
Jen Psaki: (15:00)
Obviously our objective continues to be to bring Paul Whelan home and any American who is not with their family and is being detained overseas, but I’m just not going to get into more details because I want to maintain the protection of our process.
Weijia Jiang: (15:13)
And then on a separate topic, yesterday Dr. Jha said that people who are at high risk for developing a severe case of COVID are eligible for Paxlovid and the vice president just got her second booster shot, she has no symptoms. Can you help us understand why she’s taking it?
Jen Psaki: (15:32)
Well, he also said what you didn’t include in your summary there, but that you should consult with your doctor. And she consulted with her doctor. She has been given Paxlovid. That’s something many of Americans may be eligible for. They should also consult with their doctor. And I think overall we’re just grateful that this is an approved drug on the market that many people can benefit from including the vice president.
Weijia Jiang: (15:54)
Okay, thank you.
Jen Psaki: (15:55)
Go ahead in the back. In the way back, way back.
Speaker 4: (15:57)
11 years ago in Japan, a terrible disaster and the US launched a program most people probably forgotten called Operation Tomodachi. 25,000 American military and 10,000 volunteers came from Japan to help. And one of those that came was President Biden. Wondering if this upcoming trip he’ll be coming back to that area for a short visit. And while we’re waiting for advisement, is it possible to do an interview with you?
Jen Psaki: (16:21)
Oh okay. You often come with an interview request. I should know ahead of time. I will just note, I expect we will have more details on the president’s travel to Asia, something he is clearly looking forward to since he’s spoken about it publicly, soon in the coming days. But in advance of that, I’m just not going to have much more to preview for all of you.
Jen Psaki: (16:41)
Okay, go ahead. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (16:46)
Yesterday after the vice president announced that she tested positive, the usual people on the internet and elsewhere who don’t like vaccines, who don’t think of it as much immediately started with the, “Well, she would’ve been fine even if she hadn’t gotten the vaccine.” It seems like every time there’s a high profile announcement that someone has gotten COVID, be it a member of Congress, AG Garland, people at the Gridiron dinner, people take it as proof that vaccines don’t work. What about the White House’s messaging could be better on that given that 234,000 Americans died?
Jen Psaki: (17:24)
Yeah. Well first I would say the truth, which is I think why you’re asking me this question is quite the contrary. The vice president is continuing to carry out her duties as the vice president of the United States from home, engaging in meetings, policy discussions. I’m sure you’ll see her in some capacity publicly from home as well, because she is double boosted and she has taken the steps to protect herself like we have continued to recommend other Americans do.
Jen Psaki: (17:53)
I would note that while the vaccine, the reason to take the vaccine is of course, because it can protect you from death, from severe illness, severe death, that was a little intense how I said that, from death or severe illness and by multitudes of numbers and we are going to continue. And if you’re eligible for a booster as she was, as the president was, we recommend you get that for a second booster because it can put you in a position where even if you get COVID, you’re able to still experience minimal symptoms or no symptoms like the vice president has been, and to continue to go about daily life the best you can while you’re quarantining.
Jen Psaki: (18:34)
Go ahead, [inaudible 00:18:36].
Speaker 6: (18:35)
Yeah. Thank you. Dr. Fauci said on the PBS News Hour last night “This country is out of the pandemic phase of COVID.” What phase are in right now? And also if we are out of the pandemic phase, why are emergency measures still in place?
Jen Psaki: (18:52)
Well, what Dr Fauci was saying is that we are in a different phase of this pandemic and that’s absolutely true. Last month, the president announced a plan for how we can move forward safely while staying on our front foot against COVID. As he pointed out, nationwide cases are relatively low, far below the 900,000 cases a day we saw during the Omicron surge, even as we’ve seen upticks. Hospitalizations are at about the lowest level since the pandemic and deaths are declining.
Jen Psaki: (19:19)
So there’s no question that we are in a moment, a different moment in our fight against COVID. But we also know COVID isn’t over and the pandemic isn’t over. And what Dr. Jha said yesterday also is that, a different doctor I realized, but I just want to reference him since he was just here, is that cases are low driven by the extremely… Cases, while low, cases are still, you know, we’ve seen an uptick in some places driven by the extremely transmissible BA.2 variant. We know the risk of potential surges, even as a potential new variant or sub variant remains. So different phase, because we’re at a much lower level of hospitalizations, of deaths and even nationwide of cases, but we are still seeing people get very.
Jen Psaki: (20:03)
… been nationwide of cases, but we are still seeing people get very sick from COVID, and cases of COVID. And we have measures that we should all continue to take to protect ourselves.
Speaker 7: (20:11)
A very quick, short other questions. Daleep Singh is reportedly taking a leave of absence. Can you confirm that, when he’ll be gone, and what that means for the sanctions work that he’s doing that is very important right now?
Jen Psaki: (20:23)
It is very important. He’s a very important member of the National Security team. I don’t have any details or any confirmation of his plans. What I would note, and if Daleep were here, and we’ll invite him, he would note is that he has an incredible team he works with, who helps put together these sanctions packages, helps in implementation, helps coordinate diplomatically. And there are a number of people who will continue to do that work.
Speaker 7: (20:49)
When are you sending the funding request for Ukraine funding up to the Hill?
Jen Psaki: (20:52)
Well, the President said last week, it will be this week. So there’s only two days left of this week. As soon as tomorrow, but in the next two days. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (21:04)
Indonesia; Biden decided to invite President Zelenskyy to the G20. I’m wondering if you have a reaction to that? But also what it says about progress that the U.S. might be making behind the scenes, hoping to expel Russia from that forum? And if the decision to invite President Zelenskyy has informed, and the President can confirm that he’s going to now attend the summit?
Jen Psaki: (21:24)
Well, we’ve seen the reports that President Zelenskyy has been invited to the G20, and we certainly welcome that. As you know, President Biden said just last month, that Ukraine should be able to participate. But we don’t have further confirmation beyond the news reports, which we certainly think are positive. And as he also said last month, which is of course why you’re asking me, he doesn’t think Russia should be invited, but ultimately it’s a decision for the G20.
Jen Psaki: (21:48)
So we don’t have any new announcements at this point. We will continue to engage and we’ve reached out, of course, to Indonesia, as you noted, who’s hosting the summit. But we don’t have any other additional details. It’s six months away. Typically the President does attend, but I don’t have anything to confirm about a trip six months away at this point.
Speaker 8: (22:05)
Quick one on Ukraine. There’s been questions about why the U.S. hasn’t suspended steel tariffs on Ukrainian steel coming in. Do you have any information about why we’ve maintained those tariffs?
Jen Psaki: (22:16)
Sure. Obviously there are a range of considerations to provide; not only direct assistance, but economic relief to the Ukrainians. Under consideration, I don’t have anything to preview at this point in time. I’ll go to Kristen and Jackie, and then I’ll go to the back. Go ahead.
Jen, thank you so much. Following up on Tim, we actually just reported that the White House is tomorrow, soon as tomorrow, is going to request the supplemental and that it will be through the edge of the fiscal year, and that it’s going to be massive. Can you help characterize how much money will the administration be asking for? Will we hear from the President on this?
Jen Psaki: (22:51)
So let me try to answer all those questions, and then tell me if I don’t. I can confirm… Well, as soon as tomorrow, only two days left in this week, but it will definitely be this week that we will send up the supplemental. In terms of the President’s schedule, his role, I have nothing to preview at this point in time. As soon as anything is finalized, if he’s going to speak publicly, we will announce that to all of you, or let you all know.
Jen Psaki: (23:13)
In terms of the length or the size, I don’t have a number for you at this point in time, but there is plans for this to be a proposal to go through the fiscal year. And it will include, as our past packages have included, security or military assistance, humanitarian economic assistance, given those in our view will help address a range of the needs the Ukrainians have.
Thank you. You did answer all of my questions. Obviously there’s a renewed push on Capitol Hill, and behind the scenes here at the White House, for some revised version of the Build Back Better plan; a scaled back version. When was the last time President Biden spoke with Senator Manchin in earnest about what he could sign off on?
Jen Psaki: (23:57)
So we’re just not going to detail that, per the President’s request, from here, any conversations he has with Senator Manchin, or other senators, just to protect those conversations.
Fair enough. Can you characterize though, are the negotiations happening in earnest? Are there real talks going on about specific things with Senator Manchin that the White House could agree to?
Jen Psaki: (24:17)
I would tell you, and I’m sure your colleagues on the Hill, now that all these senators are back, can confirm this with a number of them right now, or today, that there are still a great deal of interest, passion in moving forward with the President’s plans to lower cost for Americans, and a lot of senators who would like to see this move forward.
Secretary Mayorkas is getting a real grilling on Capitol Hill today, particularly about Title 42, and the plans that are in place to deal with it. DHS has acknowledged that a surge would put a substantial strain on resources. Now obviously DHS announced this six-point 20 page plan. But given that strain that DHS has anticipated, why should the American people have confidence that you’ll be able to deal with that surge migrants, if Title 42 is lifted?
Jen Psaki: (25:05)
Well, first I would say, just as a reminder, it is a health authority, not an immigration plan or an immigration authority, and it’s not meant to be a replacement of. So the determination about where we stand, and to lift it, was made by the CDC.
Jen Psaki: (25:17)
Just to note, the six-point plan that Secretary Mayorkas put out and talked about today, or over the last 24 hours, includes six pillars; surging resources including personnel, transportation, medical support, enhancing CBP processing efficiency and moving deliberate speed to mitigate potential overcrowding, administering consequences for unlawful entry, bolstering the capacity of non-governmental organizations to receive non-citizens, targeting and disrupting the transnational criminal organization and smugglers, and deterring irregular migration. So what he talked about today is exactly what his preparedness plan that’s been in the works and in the planning for months, would do. And they have talked about the need potentially for more resources to make that happen.
And just to be very clear, and some Democrats have said this, does the plan, will the plan, be in place before Title 42 is lifted?
Jen Psaki: (26:08)
That is exactly what the preparedness and implementation plan is intended to do. Go ahead, Jack.
Kaitlan Collins: (26:12)
Thanks, Jen. Dr. Fauci said that he’s not going to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, citing COVID concerns. Obviously he’s the President’s Chief Medical Advisor. As far as we know, the President is still planning to attend. How should people understand Dr. Fauci’s decision versus the President’s decision? And is there any concern that the President would be seen as not following the science in some way?
Jen Psaki: (26:34)
Well, first I would note and respect everyone’s privacy, including Dr. Fauci’s, as much as he’s very much a public figure, but as you all know, he can speak for himself and his decisions. And every individual will make their own decisions about whether they attend this event, other events, whether they wear a mask at it or not. Obviously the White House Correspondents’ Association is requiring same-day testing. That’s a decision they have made.
Jen Psaki: (26:58)
The President outlined, as you all know, a hundred page plan in March, intended to position us to go back to our more normal routines. But in that, that requires making risk assessments and decisions about what you’re going to do and what you’re going to attend and be a part of, as we all do every day. Today, the President felt it was very important to be at and speak at the memorial service for a diplomatic icon, Secretary Madeleine Albright. He made the decision to do that, despite the fact that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people there.
Jen Psaki: (27:29)
He has made the decision he wants to attend, in a safe way, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to show his support, showcase his support for the free press, for the work of all of you, for the work of your colleagues around the world. To not only share accurate information about COVID, but also report on the war in Ukraine, and all of the work that happens every single day. That does stand in stark contrast to his predecessor, who not only questioned the legitimacy of the press on a nearly daily basis, but also never attended the dinner, I don’t believe. So he felt that was important, and made a risk assessment to do that in consultation with his doctors and healthcare team.
Jen Psaki: (28:06)
I would note that we also take additional precautions and steps. I would expect that he may wear a mask when he is not speaking. I’ll wear a mask when I’m at the dinner in all likelihood. And we also took steps, including the fact that he’s not attending for the eating portion of the dinner. And he’ll be there for the program, which includes a number of speakers, the presentation of scholarships, as you know. And of course his speaking and his roasting, where he will be on the menu, as he likes to say, when Trevor Noah is speaking. So just like anything, it’s a risk assessment and a decision he made on a personal basis.
Kaitlan Collins: (28:41)
Thank you. And I want to ask a few questions on Title 42, but real quick, I want to take another stab at question I tried yesterday. You answered the first part of it. We’ve heard the President say over and over again that he has never spoken to his son about his business dealings. Has he ever spoken to his son’s business partners about his son’s business dealings?
Jen Psaki: (28:58)
Again, nothing has changed about what I said yesterday. The President does not get involved in the business dealings of his son.
Kaitlan Collins: (29:03)
Even through his son’s business partners?
Jen Psaki: (29:05)
Nothing has changed since what I said yesterday.
Kaitlan Collins: (29:07)
Okay. I don’t believe you answered that part of my question yesterday.
Jen Psaki: (29:10)
He’s not involved in his son’s business dealings.
Kaitlan Collins: (29:12)
On Title 42; Mayorkas detailed this six-point plan, part of it involves sending healthcare providers from the VA. He was asked about this on the Hill today. He said that it’s necessary, that this inter-agency effort is necessary. But is it appropriate to be taking resources away from the VA to help with the surge at the border?
Jen Psaki: (29:33)
Again, these decisions and discussions about what resources are possible are made through the inter-agency process. And clearly having support and resources for our nation’s veterans is a top priority to the President. But we also want to take steps we can at the border, even as we anticipate an increase in migrants coming to the border, to keep the American people safe. And this is part of that effort.
Kaitlan Collins: (29:56)
Another piece of this plan talked about the law enforcement help. CBP has 23,000 agents working on the Southern border right now-
Kaitlan Collins: (30:03)
CBP has 23,000 agents working on the Southern border right now. We’re already seeing 7,000 illegal crossings a day that is expected to surge to 18,00 when Title 42 is lifted. So how does adding 600 law enforcement officers make a dent in that?
Jen Psaki: (30:16)
Well, I would say, Jackie, that one of the reasons that Secretary Mayorkas is participating in the important democratic process of testifying in the Hill is to answer the questions of exactly how the resources he’s requesting, and they have identified as needing to address this potential increase, will help address that. So I would point you to his many hours of testimony today and tomorrow.
Kaitlan Collins: (30:38)
And then there’s been reporting that Speaker Pelosi is unhappy with the way that the White House is handled Title 42 and worried that if it comes up for a vote as part of a Ukraine package, that Democrats wouldn’t have the votes to defeat that. Does the White House share that concern, and what do you make of Pelosi seeming to be kind of shaky on just how close she is with the White House on this decision?
Jen Psaki: (31:03)
Well, I would say we’re incredibly close with Speaker Pelosi and the president has known her for many, many decades. I don’t have more to spell out or explain what her meaning was or what defeated means or doesn’t mean. There are many strong feelings and points of view on Capitol Hill, in the House and in the Senate, about Title 42. It wasn’t a decision made by the White House. It’s a decision made to lift it by the CDC. The authority was given to them by Congress. And our effort and our focus is on implementation. And the Department and the Secretary of Homeland Security is obviously testifying on that. So I don’t have any more to explain about the particular comments, but we all obviously work for very closely with Speaker Pelosi on a range of issues, including immigration.
Kaitlan Collins: (31:46)
A number of Democrats are speaking up about their problems with Title 42. Mark Kelly was briefed by [inaudible 00:31:53] yesterday. He said that he still has remaining questions about how and when resources are going to hit the ground. These are Democrats saying these things. They’re not wanting Title 42 to replace an immigration effort. But they’re saying that there just is not a plan in place to support what’s going to happen when Title 42 goes away.
Jen Psaki: (32:12)
Well, what I was trying to note earlier, perhaps not articulately, is that there are a range of members who have strong concerns about it being lifted. Again, not a decision we make, a decision made by health and science experts, and there any members who feel very strongly about it being lifted and that moving forward. This is why Secretary Mayorkas is on the Hill doing, I believe, four hearings, answering extensive questions from a range of members, Democratic and Republican. He put out a six-pillar plan on exactly how he’s going to implement it. And that has been a plan that’s been in the work for six months. So this is part of the democratic process happening, and he’s happy to be on the Hill answering their questions. Go ahead, Peter.
Hey Jen. The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senators Durbin and Grassley, have expressed concern about the DHS inspector general delaying or diminishing reports on sexual misconduct. This is a Trump era holdover. Is the president going to point a fire or some way intervene with Mr. Cuffari, who is the inspector general? And is there any broader sense about what to do about Trump-era inspector general?
Jen Psaki: (33:17)
I know that there can be changes made. I have not dug into this particular inspector general with the president or the team here. I’m happy to do that and I can follow up with you after the briefing. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (33:28)
Thanks Jen. On the issue as to the debt, I know you’ve been asked about this before, but Senator Schumer just told reporters on the Hill that the president is getting closer to canceling up to $50,000 in student loan debt for borrowers. He said, “The president is moving in our direction. We’re getting closer.” Is that true? When can we expect a decision?
Jen Psaki: (33:48)
Look, the president has been considering and looking at options for how to provide more relief to students across the country. I would note again that not a single borrower of federal student loans has paid a penny on these loans since he took office. And this has been the longest time of that for any president, probably in history. You can fact-check me on that. And he’s continuing to consider a range of options in terms of any additional steps. Let me go to the back. Go ahead.
Speaker 10: (34:16)
Thank you, Jen. Two questions. Follow-up on the student loan.
Jen Psaki: (34:20)
Speaker 10: (34:21)
You said that the president is looking at a range of options with regards to canceling some student debt, but is the president looking at any options for those students and parents who saved and sacrificed so that they wouldn’t have to take out such massive loans? Is he looking at including them in relief retroactively? How would they be made whole, if there was some sort of canceling of debt?
Jen Psaki: (34:41)
You mean for people who have paid off all of their student loans?
Speaker 10: (34:44)
Who made sacrifices so that they wouldn’t have to take out some of those loans.
Jen Psaki: (34:47)
It’s a good question. What I can tell you at this point is that there’s legislation he’d be happy to sign for individuals who have $10,000 in existing student debt. If Congress wanted to send that to him, he’d be happy to sign. And he’s looking at executive actions and authorities, but I don’t have anything to preview on that front.
Speaker 10: (35:04)
Okay. Then if the resident does move on canceling some of the student debt, isn’t that just one half of the equation though? What is he looking at in order to keep some of these public universities from jacking up tuition prices, despite some of the federal subsidies that they’ve been getting? What is to some of these schools from just increasing tuition for the next generation of students? Isn’t that half of the equation here?
Jen Psaki: (35:27)
I don’t know if people would consider half of the equation. I don’t know. We’ll let Americans define it. I would point you to the Department of Education to talk about their efforts on that front.
Speaker 10: (35:34)
One last quick follow-up. Is the president’s weekly lunch with the vice president still a priority for him?
Jen Psaki: (35:39)
Absolutely. Obviously they’re not going to be dining in person while she is quarantining at home, but they did speak yesterday and I expect they will speak regularly while she is quarantining. And she is participating in a number of policy meetings here too. Go ahead. And then I can come to you. Oh, go ahead, George. So polite. Go ahead.
Do you have any reaction to Boeing claiming that it’s lost 1.1 billion on the Air Force One contract and more important, has the president ordered Boeing to stick with the traditional blue and white design instead of the garish red?
Jen Psaki: (36:12)
This is bringing me back to my first week in this job. Yes. I appreciate it. I actually don’t have any information on the plans for the new Air Force One. I can certainly check and see what we know and I can get back to you on that. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (36:27)
Thanks Jen. Do you know why the vice president-