Dec 7, 2021

Jen Psaki & Jake Sullivan White House Press Briefing Transcript December 7

Jen Psaki & Jake Sullivan White House Press Briefing Transcript December 7
RevBlogTranscriptsJen Psaki White House Press Briefing TranscriptsJen Psaki & Jake Sullivan White House Press Briefing Transcript December 7

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki held a press conference on December 7, 2021. Jake Sullivan discussed President Biden’s call with Vladimir Putin. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.

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Jen Psaki: (01:13)
Hi, everyone.

Crowd: (01:13)

Crowd: (01:13)

Jen Psaki: (01:13)
Hello. All right.

Crowd: (01:27)
[crosstalk 00:01:27] see you.

Jen Psaki: (01:28)
Good afternoon. We have our national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, joining us for the briefing, who will give a brief opening and then take some questions. Then we’ll proceed with a briefing after that. With that, I’ll turn it over to Jake.

Jake Sullivan: (01:44)
Thanks, Jen, and good to see everybody here today. As you all know, President Biden held a secure video call today with President Putin. The call covered a range of issues, but the main topic was Ukraine. President Biden was direct and straightforward with President Putin, as he always is. He reiterated America’s support for Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity. He told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures. We would provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians above and beyond that which we are already providing, and we would fortify our NATO allies on the Eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such an escalation.

Jake Sullivan: (02:29)
He also told President Putin there’s another option, deescalation and diplomacy. The United States and our European allies would engage in a discussion that covers larger strategic issues, including our strategic concerns with Russia and Russia’s strategic concerns. We managed to do this at the height of the Cold War, and we developed mechanisms to help reduce instability and increase transparency. We’ve done this in the post-Cold War era through the NATO Russia council, the OSCE, and other mechanisms. There’s no reason we can’t do that going forward, provided that we are operating in a context of deescalation, rather than escalation.

Jake Sullivan: (03:05)
The United States, as we have been for some time, is also prepared to support efforts to advance the Minsk agreement in support of the Normandy format. This could include a ceasefire and confidence-building measures that helps drive the process forward. As I said before, the discussion between President Biden and President Putin was direct and straightforward. There was a lot of give and take. There was no finger wagging, but the president was crystal clear about where the United States stands on all of these issues.

Jake Sullivan: (03:34)
We believe from the beginning of this administration that there is no substitute for direct dialogue between leaders, and that is true in spades when it comes to the US-Russia relationship. So President Biden welcomed the opportunity to engage clearly and directly with President Putin. Indeed, as President Biden said after his meeting in Geneva in June with President Putin, “Where we have differences, I want President Putin to understand why I say what I say and why I do what I do and how we’ll respond to specific kinds of actions that harm America’s interests and, indeed, harm our allies’ interests.” That’s exactly what he did today.

Jake Sullivan: (04:14)
After the call, he spoke with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the UK to debrief them on the call and to consult on the way forward. Our team is presently debriefing the embassies of NATO members, EU members, and key Indo-Pacific allies. The president will be speaking shortly with the leaders of both houses of Congress and talking to them about ways in which the administration and the Congress can work together on a bipartisan basis to stand up for American interests and values and stand behind our friends and partners. President Biden will be speaking with President Zelensky on Thursday following on yesterday’s discussion between President Zelensky and Secretary Blinken.

Jake Sullivan: (04:55)
In terms of next steps, the president and President Putin agreed that our teams will follow up on the issues discussed today, and the president and his European colleagues agreed that our teams will work together to ensure that our engagement with Russia going forward both involves and is closely coordinated with European allies and partners so that we are all on the same page. There’s a lot of work to do in the days ahead. As we pursue diplomatic channels, we will also prepare for all contingencies, just as we have been doing for weeks now, including through the preparation of specific responses to Russian escalation should they be required, specific, robust, clear responses should they be required. That’s where things stand as we speak, and with that, I’d be happy to take your questions. Yes.

Speaker 1: (05:42)
Thank you, Jake. Could you elaborate on what you just said about fortifying allies on the Eastern flank there? Is sending US troops to the region on the table here?

Jake Sullivan: (05:52)
So what I’m referring to there is in the event that there is a further invasion into Ukraine, a military escalation in Ukraine, obviously many of our partners on the Eastern front, our Baltic allies, Romania, Poland, other countries will be increasingly concerned about the security and territorial integrity of their countries. They will be seeking, we expect, additional capabilities and potentially additional deployments, and the United States will be looking to respond positively to those things in the event that there is a further incursion into Ukraine.

Speaker 1: (06:25)
So is that something the American public should be bracing for, the possibility of seeing American troops on the ground in that region in the coming weeks and months if Vladimir Putin goes through with this?

Jake Sullivan: (06:35)
I don’t know if I would say bracing for, since we currently have rotational deployments in the Baltics. We conduct exercises on a regular basis in both Poland and Romania. The presence of American military service members in rotational fashion in these countries is not something new. The question here is not that about whether or not the United States is going to send American service members to the territory of our NATO allies. We do that as a matter of course. The question is what additional capabilities can we provide to ensure that they feel strong and confident in their own sovereignty and territorial integrity? It is those additional capabilities that are on the table in those countries should Russia move in Ukraine in a more decisive way. Yes.

Speaker 2: (07:21)
Thanks so much. In the days leading up to this call, the White House and administration officials said repeatedly their assessment so far was that Putin had not made a decision over whether to invade Ukraine. So did President Biden get clarity from him on whether or not that is his intention?

Jake Sullivan: (07:36)
We still do not believe that President Putin has made a decision. What President Biden did today was lay out very clearly the consequences if he chooses to move. He also laid out an alternative path, an alternative path that is fundamentally in keeping with the basic principles and propositions that have guided America in the Euro-Atlantic area for the past 70 years. Ultimately, we will see in the days ahead through actions, not through words, what course of action Russia chooses to take. Yes.

Speaker 2: (08:04)
One quick followup. In your statement … Sorry, Jake. One quick followup. In your statement of the readout of the call, you said that President Biden told him in the United States was ready to take strong economic measures and other actions if needed. What are those other measures that the United States referred to?

Jake Sullivan: (08:19)
I just spelled those out in my opening remarks, both the supply and provision of additional material as well as the additional deployment of assets and capabilities to NATO members in the event that there’s a further encouragement.

Speaker 3: (08:36)
What are the strong economic measures, and how are they doing different from the ones you put on Russia in 2014, which didn’t deter Russia from taking Crimea? What are they, and why do you think they’ll work better this time?

Jake Sullivan: (08:48)
I will look you in the eye and tell you as President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today that things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now. Now, in terms of the specifics, we would prefer to communicate that directly to the Russians, to not negotiate in public, to not telegraph our punches, but we are laying out for the Russians in some detail the types of measures that we have in mind. We are also coordinating very closely with our European allies on that at a level of deep specificity. We have experts from the Treasury Department, the State Department, and the National Security Council in daily contact with the key capitals and with Brussels to work through that package of measures. But I think it is not profitable for us to lay out the specifics of it standing here at this podium today.

Speaker 4: (09:33)
First, thank you. Did President Putin ask for President Biden to commit to not allow Ukraine to join NATO, and did President Biden make any kinds of concessions such as a reduced US presence or any commitment on NATO and Ukraine’s membership?

Jake Sullivan: (09:54)
I’m not going to characterize President Putin’s side of the conversation or go into details in terms of what they discussed, because I think they need to have that space to be able to have a robust exchange. But I will tell you clearly and directly he made no such commitments or concessions. He stands by the proposition the country should be able to freely choose who they associate with. Yes.

Speaker 5: (10:16)
On the material that you said that you’re going to send, following up on Caitlin’s question, how quickly can that be delivered?

Jake Sullivan: (10:21)
We have an ongoing pipeline that delivers various forms of defensive assistance to Ukraine. Indeed there was the delivery of defensive assistance to Ukraine just very recently, and that will continue. So it really depends on the type or form, but this should not be thought of as a circumstance in which you completely turn off the dial or turn on the dial. There is an ongoing pipeline. Whether that pipeline needs additional supplements as we go forward will depend on how circumstances evolve. Yes.

Speaker 6: (10:55)
Jake, thank you so much. You have said that the administration will take action if Russia does escalate militarily. Satellite images show that hundreds of Russian troops are amassing on the border with Ukraine. Isn’t there already a military escalation underway? Why wait to take action?

Jake Sullivan: (11:14)
So our view on this is that the fundamental object of the policy the United States is pursuing in lockstep with our European allies is to deter a Russian military invasion of further territory of Ukraine. The measures we have put on the table are designed to show the Russian government that should it to choose engage in such an invasion, there will be those consequences. That for us is a clear and decisive lay down, and we also believe that there should be an alternative pathway by which we can make progress on diplomacy and the [inaudible 00:11:55] through the Minsk agreement and the Normandy format and by which we can address NATO and American security concerns and Russian security concerns through a larger mechanism consistent with the way we’ve operated over the course of the past 30 years.

Speaker 6: (12:08)
Jake, some Republicans are accusing President Biden of being too weak on President Putin. They cite the fact that sanctions were eased on Nord Stream 2 and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was widely criticized. How do you respond to that criticism that President Biden is being too weak with Mr. Putin?

Jake Sullivan: (12:27)
I’d make three points. The first is that Vladimir Putin standing behind then President Medvedev in 2008 invaded Georgia when we had 150,000 or more troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the connection between our deployments in foreign wars and the calculus of Russian leaders when it comes to the post-Soviet space, there’s not good evidence to support that. Number two, when it comes to Nord Stream 2, the fact is the gas is not currently flowing through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which means that it’s not operating, which means that it’s not leveraged for Putin. Indeed, it is leveraged for the West, because if Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine.

Jake Sullivan: (13:17)
Then number three, the president has shown over the course of the past eight months that he will do what he says he’s going to do in response to Russian action. So President Putin can count on that. He said he would impose costs for Navalny. He said he would impose costs for SolarWinds. He did those things, and if Russia chooses to take these actions in Ukraine, he will do the same. He’s not doing this to saber rattle. He’s not doing it to make idle threats. He’s doing it to be clear and direct with both the Russians and with our European allies about the best way forward, and we think this stands the best chance alongside a pathway to deescalate to avert a potential crisis with respect to an invasion of Ukraine. Yeah.

Speaker 7: (14:06)
[crosstalk 00:14:06] suggested in recent days starting talks on a new European security pact. Did Putin bring this up, and did President Biden agree to start those talks?

Jake Sullivan: (14:13)
Again, I’m not going to get into the details or characterize what President Putin said, and I will say that formal agreements or formal treaties were not on the table in the conversation today. But the straightforward notion that the United States, flanked by our European allies and partners, would be prepared to talk to Russia about strategic issues in the European theater, that was on the table and we are prepared to do that, as we’ve been prepared to do that throughout both the Cold War and post-Cold War eras. What the right mechanism for that is, what the agenda for that is, and what comes of that, that is all to be worked out as we see how things proceed in the coming days.

Speaker 7: (14:58)
[crosstalk 00:14:58] going on since late October. Why hasn’t the US given additional material to Ukraine yet? This has been escalating for weeks. Why wait?

Jake Sullivan: (15:07)
As I just pointed out in response to an earlier question, we are continuing to deliver defensive material assistance to Ukraine. We have done so just in the past few days. Yes.

Speaker 8: (15:19)
The Kremlin readout said that President Putin proposed to President Biden that both lift all restrictions on diplomatic missions that have been imposed in recent news. Can you say whether that’s something President Biden is open to or whether it’s something he spoke to on the call?

Jake Sullivan: (15:32)
President Biden is open to creating functioning diplomatic missions in both countries, but he didn’t make any specific commitments with respect to the best pathway to do that. What he said was that as leaders, President Biden and President Putin should direct their teams to figure out how we ensure that the embassy platform in Moscow is able to function effectively and as we believe the embassy platform here in Washington is able to operate effectively for the Russians.

Speaker 8: (16:00)
Just to follow up on Nord Stream, have you sent any message or had any meetings with the incoming German government on this issue? Are you urging the new, incoming government to essentially threaten to pull support for this pipeline if there is a further incursion into Ukraine?

Jake Sullivan: (16:15)
We’ve had intensive discussions with both the outgoing and incoming German governments on the issue of Nord Stream 2 in the context of a potential invasion. I’m not going to characterize it beyond that, other than it is an object of great priority for the Biden administration.

Speaker 8: (16:28)
[crosstalk 00:16:28] President Biden reversed his waiver on-

Speaker 9: (16:30)
I’m sorry. So obviously the summit is being watched by a number of other adversaries, including the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. Some observers have described a nightmare scenario where President Putin invades Ukraine and also simultaneously President Xi uses force to reunify Taiwan with China. Is the US prepared to deal with such a scenario?

Jake Sullivan: (16:56)
The United States is going to take every action that we can take from the point of view of both deterrence and diplomacy.

Jake Sullivan: (17:03)
… we can take from the point of view of both deterrence and diplomacy, to make sure that the Taiwan scenario you just described never happens, and to try to avert the invasion and deter the invasion into Ukraine. That is the object of our policy right now. Those are the steps we are taking. That’s what President Biden is doing and the messages that he’s sending to President Putin. And with respect to Taiwan, the sum total of the efforts we’ve undertaken over the course of the past eight months in the Indo-Pacific have also all been geared towards avoiding any kind of scenario where China chooses to [crosstalk 00:17:38]. Yes?

Speaker 10: (17:38)
Is there any promise from the Russian side to use leverage to change Iran on its position?

Jake Sullivan: (17:45)
The president and President Putin had a good discussion on the Iran issue. It was productive. Russia and the United States actually worked well together, even in tense circumstances, back in the 2014, 2015 period to produce the joint comprehensive plan of action. This is an area where Russia and the United States can continue to consult closely to ensure that Iran never acquires [crosstalk 00:18:08].

Speaker 11: (18:09)
Why did Ukrainian officials first deny that there was any true build up when Washington started putting out the information and then change their tune after the meeting with Lincoln?

Jake Sullivan: (18:18)
So I’m not going to characterize the decision making of the Ukrainian government only to say that we are in daily contact with senior officials in the Ukrainian government. I’m in nearly daily contact with my counterpart in the Ukrainian government. And we believe that we are seeing a common threat picture here. And our message to our friends in the Ukrainian government, as our message was today to President Putin is that the United States supports the men’s process, wants to see progress made towards a ceasefire, towards confidence building measures. And that is the best way forward [crosstalk 00:18:53] .

Speaker 12: (18:53)
Is the world safer today after that conversation between the two leaders or less safe? And then I have a follow up as to your answer.

Jake Sullivan: (19:06)
So all I will say is that the ultimate metric for whether the world is safer or not is facts on the ground and actions taken in this case by Russia. Let’s see, we are prepared to deal with any contingency as I said at the outset, and I’m not going to make predictions or characterizations, I’m only going to say that President Biden will continue to do all of the necessary prudent planning for a variety of different pathways that could unfold.

Speaker 13: (19:33)
There is an impression in the east that this administration is going to redo the Obama deal, lifting sanctions, unfreeze million of dollars to this regime that is going to be spread to the proxies, like [inaudible 00:19:48] became stronger and stronger from the money that Obama gave to this particular militia. So is this going to happen? Are you going to address the proxies of Iran this time at the table of the negotiation?

Jake Sullivan: (20:01)
So I make three points in response to that. Since Donald Trump made the decision to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Hezbollah has continued to menace Lebanon and the region. Iran’s proxies in Iraq and Syria and Yemen have continued to move forward. So not being in the nuclear deal has hardly been a solution to the proxy. Second, nothing about the nuclear deal stops the United states’ capacity to deal with those proxies and we are prepared to do so. In fact, in response to attacks on American forces in Iraq, the United States has twice under President Biden taken action, direct military action in response to those proxies, in addition to undertaking sanctions. And third, ultimately, an Iran with a nuclear weapon is going to be a greater menace in partnerships with its proxies than Iran without one. And so, it is our determination to ensure they never get a nuclear weapon and diplomacy is the best way.

Speaker 14: (21:00)
Follow up on Iran, please. The Iranians announced that they’re going back to negotiation on Thursday. The administration criticized them last week and they said they were not serious. In fact, they reverse the progress. What makes you think that apart from hope that actually they are serious this time and how much of a time are you willing to do it. And secondly, you negotiate with your allies and you coordinate with them. Your counterpart in the UAE is visiting Iran as we speak. So is this a natural effort from the Emirates to do it or to reach to the Iran or do you think this is a coordinated effort with the United States?

Jake Sullivan: (21:39)
I’ll put this quite simple. The more Iran demonstrates a lack of seriousness at the negotiating table, the more unity there is among the P5+1, and the more they will be exposed as the isolated party in this negotiation. So really the ball is in Iran’s court as to whether it wants to show up and demonstrate that it’s going to be serious or not.

Speaker 15: (22:03)
Looking forward to the conversation with President Zelensky later this week, are there any steps or compromises Ukraine might be able to make, to find a way to end this peacefully?

Jake Sullivan: (22:18)
So, again, as I mentioned before, we’re in constant contact with senior levels of the Ukrainian government. Secretary Lincoln just spoke with President Zelensky yesterday. I’m not going to characterize the specifics of their proposals, but they have come forward with constructive ideas for how to move the diplomacy forward. We’re encouraging that. Those are steps they’re taking, and they’re asking the United States to support them in trying to get toward cease fire, and then ultimately get down the track of diplomatic resolution. We believe that that is good and positive. And I believe that President Biden and President Zelensky will discuss that diplomatic pathway when they speak.

Speaker 16: (22:55)
Can I just ask you about Nordstream 2? You said Putin should, if he wants to risk the pipeline not being turned on. Have you made clear to allies that you will in fact sanction the remaining entities that are involved in that project, if there is an invasion and have you received any assurances from Germany? When Chancellor Merkel was here, there was discussion about what to do if Russia weaponized those gas supplies that nothing came of that even though there were some pretty… Some saber battling by the Russians in recent months. Have you now received assurances from Germany that they will in fact not proceed with that?

Jake Sullivan: (23:38)
So in response to an earlier question, I said, I wasn’t going to get into these specific sanctions measures that we intend to impose. Although we will be communicating those directly to our Russian counterparts and we will be working through them detailed by detail with our European counterparts. What I will tell you is that the subject of the future of Nordstream 2 in the context of an invasion of Ukraine by Russia in the coming weeks is a topic of utmost priority. It has been discussed thoroughly. I’m going to leave it at that for today.

Speaker 17: (24:10)
Mr. Sullivan, how the tensions between United States and Russia can affect African countries? And my second question is how do you summarize this meeting? It was productive? It was good or not?

Jake Sullivan: (24:26)
It was a useful meeting. It was useful in the sense that it allowed President Biden to lay out in clear and direct and candid terms where the United States stands on this issue. And to do so, having coordinated closely with his allies and partners beforehand, and also to talk about a potential way forward. And now on the question of African partners, this is true of the world over. The attempt to change the territories of another country by force should be vigorously opposed by every country in the world, including every country [crosstalk 00:25:00]. I’ll take one more question.

Speaker 18: (25:00)
What was Putin’s demeanor over the course of the two hours? Did he signal any willingness to back down?

Jake Sullivan: (25:10)
Again, I just make it a practice not to characterize the other side’s position. He could speak for himself. I would say that his demeanor like President Biden’s demeanor was direct and straightforward. And again, as I said, in my opening remarks, this was a real discussion. It was give and take. It was not speeches. It was back and forth. And President Putin was deeply engaged and I’m going to leave it at that in terms of trying to characterize where he is. All I can tell you ways there is a task in coming out of that meeting by the two presidents to their teams to start talking about how we might think about the diplomatic path. The president has been clear throughout that diplomacy has to come in the context of deescalation rather than escalation. And now we will watch what unfolds in the coming days. Thank you guys [crosstalk 00:26:05].

Jen Psaki: (26:04)
Okay. Thank you, Jake. Welcome back anytime. I think I can speak for the group. Okay. I just have a couple of items for all of you at the top. I wanted to just preview tomorrow. The president will be headed to Kansas City, Missouri, where he will continue highlighting how the bipartisan infrastructure law delivers for Missourians by rebuilding roads and bridges, upgrading public transit, replacing water infrastructure, and creating good paying union jobs. The trip is a part of the president and the administration’s nationwide tour that demonstrates how the president is following through on his promise to forge bipartisan consensus and prove our democracy can deliver big wins for the American people. And while he’s there, he’s going to be engaging with Governor Mike Parson, Kansas City Mayor Quentin Lucas, Representative Charice Davids, and Emmanuel Cleaver, and a number of other state and local elected officials. He’s go going to be visiting the Kansas City area transportation authority, and he will discuss how the historic investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law will provide more than $670 million in formula funding for public transportation, making commutes easier so people can get to work and home faster.

Jen Psaki: (27:13)
The investments will also help Kansas City’s ambitious zero fare, zero emissions plan to reduce pollution and increase opportunity by providing free public transit. He’ll also discuss how the investments will help repair some of the 2,190 bridges and over 7, 570 miles of highway in poor condition with Missouri receiving $7 billion for highways and bridges, and nearly 30% increase in federal funding. And finally, he’ll talk about how this bill will help support Kansas City’s upgrades to its old and overwhelmed sewer system, which could cost the city $1.4 billion to complete. Missouri will receive more than $860 million to improve water infrastructure that will help deliver clean drinking water in every community. Also, wanted to note that today, the US Surgeon General [inaudible 00:28:04] Murphy issued a new health advisory calling for immediate action to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis. No child should feel like they have to go through a mental health battle alone. Students and families should feel supported, confident, and empowered. Everyone has a role to play in protecting and promoting the mental health of our youth.

Jen Psaki: (28:21)
This advisory on protecting youth mental health plays out a series of recommendations that individuals, families, community organizations, social media companies, governments, and others can take to improve mental health for children and adults. Also wanted to note that the vice president… Also, she hosted a summit to mark today to mark the first ever White House maternal health day of action. She issued a nationwide call to action, to both the public and private sector to help improve maternal health outcomes in the United States. In conjunction with the summit, the vice president announced a new Department of Health and Human Services report showing the impact of pregnancy related Medicaid coverage, and that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services is proposing the establishment of birthing friendly hospital designation and guidance to states on how to cover Medicaid postpartum services for a year. Amar, why don’t you kick us off?

Amar: (29:16)
Does the White House have any reaction to a federal judge in Georgia’s decision to block the administration from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees or federal contractors?

Jen Psaki: (29:29)
Well, the reason that we proposed these requirements is that we know they work and we are confident in our ability legally to make these happen across the country. As you know, the federal government, the largest employer in the country, we have successfully implemented these requirements in a way that have not only boosted vaccinations in the federal government with more than 92% of people vaccinated, but also helps avoid disruptions in operations. And our implementation sends a clear messages to businesses, including federal contractors, that similar measures will protect their workforce, protect their customers, and protect our communities.

Jen Psaki: (30:08)
I’d also note that a number of businesses across the country have also implemented these, vaccinating or testing requirements depending on the organization. And the CEO of Lockheed said last week that they’re at over 95% on track to be compliant and are well on their way to be able to maintain operations. So I would just note, of course, the Department of Justice will vigorously defend this in court. We know it works. That’s why the president and the administration will continue pressing forward.

Amar: (30:38)
And how is the AWS outage affecting the government and has the White House gained any insight or understanding of the pause?

Jen Psaki: (30:48)
We have, of course seen those reports, Amar, which I know were just out earlier today. I don’t have anything new to update you on, but we can check and see later this afternoon if there is.

Amar: (30:56)
And finally on the arrest in France of the [inaudible 00:31:01], just wondering if the White House had any immediate reaction.

Jen Psaki: (31:04)
We did see the report, but I don’t have any additional comment from here. Go ahead.

Andrea: (31:07)
I just wanted to ask you about the debt ceiling. Looks like there’s some movement on that. Can you tell us whether the president has spoken with Senate Majority Leader McConnell on that issue. And if you feel like you’ve kind of gotten over that hurdle, does that open the door to other compromises and more bipartisanship?

Jen Psaki: (31:29)
Well, the president has always felt the door’s open. He’s never closed it, but I will say we are heartened to see the progress being made today and hope for a quick consideration. So we can focus on the president’s economic agenda, his Build Back Better agenda that will lower costs for Americans across the country, as early as next year, childcare, elder care, healthcare, et cetera. And this would leave space to spend time and focus on that. We have seen Leader Schumer and Senator McConnell engage in discussions in good faith to move this forward, to prevent a default. That certainly is a good sign. And today was a positive development. We’ll of course defer to Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi on the legislative mechanics and the path forward.

Andrea: (32:09)
Since we’re on the subject of Build Back Better, can you map out for us what’s going to be happening over the next few weeks? Like, what is your sense of a timetable for a decision on that? And the one issue that seems to sort of fallen out is paid leave. I realize that there are other priorities that are in the measure, but can you just say what you will do to worry about paid leave, going down the road then?

Jen Psaki: (32:36)
Well, let me first say that the president absolutely wants a paid leave to be law in the land. He proposed it in his package. We have fought for it in negotiations. We also fully recognize we need every single Democrat to support this bill in order to move it forward. I would note for the first part of your question, Andrea, in terms of what will be happening, I would really point you to the dear colleague letter that leader Schumer put out yesterday, which outlined in great detail what’s happening behind the scenes, whether it is the ongoing discussions between Senate committees and the bird proofing process, as we call it, to review and consider components of the Build Back Better agenda, and whether they will pass the bird bath.

Jen Psaki: (33:19)
That is ongoing. The parliamentarian is clearly reviewing that. I would note that as he noted in his letter, that on Friday and Saturday eight of the 12 Senate committees that were given reconciliation instructions submitted their final Senate texts to the parliamentarian, the Congressional Budget Office and the Senate Republicans. So this is a process that is behind the scenes largely and an important component of moving legislation forward. But I would also note that Leader Schumer conveyed in this letter and has repeatedly conveyed his intention and objective of moving this forward in advance of Christmas. We support that and we’re encouraged by that effort and that leadership. Go ahead.

Speaker 19: (33:57)
Thanks, Jen. A few follow ups on the call today that happened. One, when it comes to the calls that the president had last night with European-

Caitlin: (34:03)
… One, when it comes to the calls that the President had last night with European allies, did he get commitments from them that they would, in conjunction and coordination with the United States, implement those economic sanctions?

Jen Psaki: (34:12)
We’re not going to speak for them, Caitlin. Obviously, they can speak for what they have any intention to do, but there is agreement about the need to impose strong and significant economic consequences if Russia were to invade Ukraine. Obviously, that may look different from country to country, and we’re focused on what our objectives are. The President laid those out in those calls yesterday and in a followup call again today, and we’ll let them speak for of themselves on what they have the intention of doing.

Caitlin: (34:43)
And Jake just made clear that the President delivered some warnings to Putin today. What is, in his view, the timeline that he’s looking at if Putin does heed those warnings and does deescalate? What’s the timeframe for that?

Jen Psaki: (34:54)
For when Putin might deescalate?

Caitlin: (34:56)
How long does he think that would take? Is he looking at the next several days? The next several weeks?

Jen Psaki: (35:00)
I’m not going to give you an assessment for that. That’s really up to President Putin. Our objective is to prevent Russia and President Putin from invading Ukraine. Of course, we want them to deescalate, but that was the clear bottom line of the message.

Caitlin: (35:14)
And one last question, just logistics. Is the President going to attend the funeral for Bob Dole?

Jen Psaki: (35:19)
He, of course, considered former Senator Bob Dole a friend, somebody he admired greatly as you saw in the statement, but I will let them announce any specifics of the plans for the funeral.

Speaker 20: (35:29)

Jen Psaki: (35:30)
Go ahead.

Speaker 20: (35:30)
Just quickly on the call. Jacob said that characterizes it as useful, says there’s more work to do. But big picture, is there a sense that as one of the results of this call that tensions are now lessened? Like sort of what’s the sense of tension?

Jen Psaki: (35:46)
The way we see our relationship with Russia is that the President and leaders in this administration are going to be direct and clear where we have concerns as the President was on this call. There are also areas where in the same call, we are going to discuss how we can work together. Our objective, a large portion of this call, as Jake Sullivan just outlined, was on Ukraine and our concerns about the military buildup on the border and our concerns about the bellicose rhetoric, but the proof is in the pudding and the eating.

Jen Psaki: (36:16)
I can’t even remember exactly the President’s statement on that or his saying he likes to say, but really our objective and our focus is the not on the tone. It is on what their actions are. And we would like, of course, to see them deescalate and most importantly not to invade. If they do, part of this call was to convey clearly there will be consequences and significant ones. Go ahead.

Speaker 21: (36:38)
What would be a sign to the President that Putin got the message today? Would it be for him to start to pull troops back and when?

Jen Psaki: (36:45)
Again, I’m not going to assess that or provide an assessment of that from here. We will know if Russia and President Putin decides to invade Ukraine. I don’t think that will be a secret, and so we will certainly be watching that. Our preference is, of course, for that not to happen. And the President made clear that there is an off-ramp here and that we have a diplomatic path forward to have these discussions. But I think that will be clear. I don’t think it will be a secret. That is what we’re working to prevent.

Speaker 21: (37:17)
Is the administration starting to put plans in place in case Americans in Ukraine need to be evacuated quickly?

Jen Psaki: (37:23)
I know there was some reporting about this. Of course, the military does contingency planning for a range of potential scenarios in order to keep US personnel safe. And when a security situation warrants it, the State Department issues travel notices and security warnings to us citizens. That’s how the process broadly works, but it’s not the standard process for the United States government to evacuate US citizens. Typically, if a security situation deteriorates, the State Department issues a travel warning or a travel advisory.

Jen Psaki: (37:55)
Obviously, our embassy would provide consular service. We’re not even at that point right now.

Speaker 21: (37:59)
Are there any lessons that were learned during the mass evacuation in Afghanistan that are already being heeded this time around as you begin contingency planning?

Jen Psaki: (38:10)
I think it’s really important for people not to compare the two. I mean, of course, you can ask any question you want, but Afghanistan was a war zone. We were at war for 20 years. What we’re talking about here is a situation we are trying to work to deescalate and move towards a diplomatic path, but it is not a comparable situation in our view. And also, I would say that it is not standard, as you all know from our discussions about Ethiopia, for the US government to plan for, I mean, we plan for everything, but to evacuate on military planes, American citizens.

Jen Psaki: (38:44)
There is a lengthy process that we undergo typically around the world. Go ahead.

Speaker 22: (38:48)
Thanks, Jen. Jake talked a little bit about conversations with Germany regarding Nord Stream 2. Can you at all characterize the process of arriving at some sort of an agreement about what might and involving Nord Stream 2 if Russia is to move forward? And does the administration have any regrets at this point about waving sanctions against Nord Stream 2 back this spring?

Jen Psaki: (39:16)
Well, I would first note that, and Jake broadly referenced this, but back in July, there was a joint statement of the United States and Germany on support for Ukraine energy security and our climate goals. And what it conveyed in there is quote that it made in the joy statement there would be action taken if “Russia’s attempts to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine.” Obviously invading Ukraine would be an aggressive act. And part of these discussions are what the contingency planning would look like if they were to take that step.

Jen Psaki: (39:49)
That is one of the lessons. And I think Mara asked this very good question yesterday and today about what are the lessons you learned from 2014? What you can look at for people who covered this back then is that there’s an enormous amount of preparation, contingency planning, tracking of social media and the use of disinformation tools. A lot of that is done because we did learn some lessons in 2014 leading up to it. I think what’s important to also note is that I know there’s a lot members on the hill, not a lot, some who are vocal, who are conveying that Nord Stream 2 is the answer here.

Jen Psaki: (40:24)
And the point Jake was making, or additional steps on Nord Stream 2 is that that would actually not be an effective deterrent, that that is not effectively going to change the behavior of President Putin. So yes, Germany in our joint statement made these commitments. There are a range of economic tools and options we have, our European partners have should they decide to invade. Obviously, our preference is that we not get to that point.

Speaker 22: (40:51)
And then referencing because you brought up the members on The Hill who often talk about Nord Stream 2 and Jake’s July statement. These members say that Russia has taken action using gas as a geopolitical weapon. They point to coercing and manipulating countries in Europe over the course of the summer, taking advantage of the energy crisis, for instance, just a couple months ago and Biden and Merkel promised sanctions if those events were to transpire. Does the White House believe that what we’ve seen up until now is not Russia using gas as a geopolitical weapon?

Jen Psaki: (41:36)
I think what we’re talking about here and we’re trying to achieve here is a deterrence of actions that would be detrimental and of course hurt the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine. And what I was referencing is the fact that there are some who are suggesting that this would deter and our assessment is that it would not. Now, again, we’ve been having conversations with a range of partners, including our important partners in Germany. And yes, there is a reference as I referenced in July to this joint statement.

Jen Psaki: (42:10)
But again, I don’t have anything new on Nord Stream 2 at this point in time. I just think it’s important to understand what would be a deterrent and what would not be.

Speaker 22: (42:18)
Real quick on crime and another topic. Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot appeared to pass some blame on to retailers for these smash and grabs, saying that she’s disappointed that these stores are not put in security officers in place, having working cameras and chaining up high end bags. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Congresswoman said earlier this week also that she doubted allegations of organized retail thefts. She believed it was a Walgreens in California that cited it, but the data didn’t back it up.

Speaker 22: (42:44)
Does the President believe that organized retail theft is really happening and should it be on the stores themselves to take action to prevent it?

Jen Psaki: (42:54)
Well, we don’t agree. And I think our actions and the work that we have had in working with the Justice Department, the FBI and federal law enforcement show that we take, we’ve seen some of these extremely disturbing videos, showing retail thefts in both major retailers, as well as state and local leaders like Governor Newsom have identified this is a serious concern. We agree. That’s the reason why we have sent additional support from the FBI providing additional assistance. It’s one of the reasons why the President and members of our administration have been long time advocates for supporting and funding the COPS program.

Jen Psaki: (43:33)
Something where the President almost 300 million in additional assistance through his budget from what it was last year and why we have also provided money to get provided financial assistance to get money to hire 50 more police officers through the COPS program that the President has championed in places like San Francisco and additional 20 officers in Los Angeles. So I think his record speaks for itself on this. We are going to continue to advocate for supporting programs like the COPS program, ensuring that our law enforcement are good partners as we’re working to address these retail thefts across the country. Go ahead, Kristen.

Kristen: (44:10)
Jen, thank you. I have a foreign policy and a domestic.

Jen Psaki: (44:11)
Great. Okay.

Kristen: (44:12)
I’ll start with the foreign policy. It’s a big picture question.

Jen Psaki: (44:14)

Kristen: (44:15)
The withdrawal from Afghanistan over the summer was widely criticized. There are increasing tensions with China and Taiwan, and now you have Russian troops amassing on the border with Ukraine. Candidate Biden campaigned on a pledge to restore America’s credibility on the world stage on his foreign policy experience. Is he living up to that pledge?

Jen Psaki: (44:38)
Well, Kristen, he also campaigned on a promise to bring an end to a 20 year war that should have ended 10 years ago and to bring our troops home and not to send another son, grandson, granddaughter, or daughter into a war that the Afghans aren’t willing to fight themselves. He also pledged to stand up for democracy and pledged to stand up for countries like Ukraine and their territorial integrity. And that’s something that he is standing up for and vocally doing now and raising concerns he has about the bellicose rhetoric and the military buildup.

Jen Psaki: (45:12)
And he also pledged to stand up for human rights. And you saw this decision we made yesterday. Not made yesterday, but the announcement, I should say, made yesterday about the decision to not send a diplomatic presence to the Olympics because he believes it needs to be more than words. It needs to be actions. And I think he is certainly delivering on his values and how he proposed he would be leading in the world.

Kristen: (45:38)
Domestic question, Jen. John Tester just told NBC News that he plans to support the provision to essentially nix the Biden Administration’s vaccine for big businesses. So he, along with Joe Manchin. What is your response to that fact that some Democrats are joining on to that? And should it make its way through the House, it’s obviously facing an uphill battle there, would the President veto that?

Jen Psaki: (46:05)
Well, let me first say that the President has a great relationship with Senator Tester, one was Senator Manchin and he has always had constructive and open dialogue with both of them. I think it’s important to remind everyone what this OSHA rule is all about. One, it’s based on a 50-year-old law, and we are confident in our ability to implement it. It’s about not just requiring vaccination, but unvaccinated people to get vaccinated, but the alternative of testing, so testing once a week. And I think our view and the view of many Americans is that if people aren’t vaccinated, having them test once a week is quite reasonable.

Jen Psaki: (46:46)
As we’re thinking about how to protect our workplaces, how to protect stores and retail locations, as people are out shopping for Christmas and the holidays, how to protect our children in schools and public places. And we also know that more than a hundred leading public health experts have endorsed this rule. It’s also building on what we’ve already seen businesses do on their own. 60% of businesses across the country are implementing these requirements because they know they work, they know people will feel confident being in their workplaces and they know that they will provide a more stable work environment.

Jen Psaki: (47:20)
So we certainly hope the Senate, Congress will stand up to the anti-vaccine and testing crowd and we’re going to continue to work to implement these. If it comes to the President’s desk, he will veto it. And we’ve got a new variant and cases are rising, President’s been clear, we’ll use every tool to protect the American people and we hope others will join us in that effort. Go ahead.

Steve: (47:40)
Given the stakes with regard to Ukraine, are there any plans here for the President to address the American people on the issue?

Jen Psaki: (47:47)
The President does speak to the American people nearly every day, but we will certainly keep you updated if there’s something more formal to announce.

Steve: (47:57)
But specifically on Ukraine, I mean, you’re talking about a possibility of serious consequences, I mean, economic and otherwise, is this something the President intends to talk to the public about?

Jen Psaki: (48:03)
I understand, Steve. I’m sure the President will certainly be communicating with all of you and the public about this and many other issues in the days to come. I don’t have anything to preview for you at this point in time.

Steve: (48:13)
Quick followup. Late last week, you told us the President took a COVID test for at least three days, have those tests continued?

Jen Psaki: (48:20)
He did take another test on Sunday. He tested negative. Go ahead.

Speaker 23: (48:25)
What is the reason for the call with President Zelensky happening on Thursday, as opposed to, say, today or tomorrow?

Jen Psaki: (48:32)
Well, the President also had a call with his European partners today. He is traveling tomorrow. So I think it was just a matter of getting it on the schedule.

Speaker 23: (48:41)
What’s his message going to be that we don’t already know or is not already public? I mean, what’s his message to him going to be?

Jen Psaki: (48:49)
The President will convey as we’ve conveyed publicly and as he’s conveyed publicly that he strongly supports the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, that we will continue to be a strong supporter through a range of assistance. We have provided, I believe, $400 million in assistance since the beginning of this year, 60 million as a followup to President Zelensky’s visit here earlier this fall and that we will continue to be close partners and working close coordination with them in the weeks and months ahead.

Speaker 23: (49:20)
A number of Democratic Senators are expressing some frustration over Guantanamo Bay, the detention center there, the prison and why more progress isn’t made in shutting it down, something the President has said he wants to do. How come it’s taking so long and what commitment does he have to seeing that come to fruition?

Jen Psaki: (49:39)
He absolutely remains committed to shutting down Guantanamo Bay, something he has stated many times in the past as Vice President, running for office, etc. I’m sure I can get you an update from the Department of Defense on the number of detainees who are still there. That’s something that is under constant review, but we can get that to you after the briefing as well. Go ahead.

Speaker 24: (49:57)
Can I just ask that the readout referred to these countermeasures coming in the event of “military escalation.” How do you define military escalation? Is it Russian troops setting foot further into Ukraine, or what other things count?

Jen Psaki: (50:12)
Tell me more.

Speaker 24: (50:14)
He has a history of sewing discontent or unrest in regions, supporting indirectly for deniability separatist movements or that kind of thing.

Jen Psaki: (50:30)
And we’ve already seen this. We’ve already seen this have happening over the course in …

Speaker 24: (50:34)
He’s been in The Donbas and he could, for instance, maybe follow up with troops into The Donbas in a way that he hasn’t before or similar sort of first step measures that aren’t a full military incursion. Would the US and The Donbas consider that a violation and start triggering some of these countermeasures, counter punches that you’re threatening here?

Jen Psaki: (50:52)
I certainly understand why you’re asking. I’m just not going to parse the different scenarios. I think we have been clear, Jake Sullivan was clear, the President was clear with President Putin that if they invade Ukraine-

Jen Psaki: (51:03)
… was clear, the President was clear with President Putin that if they invade Ukraine, we have a range of economic options to take and they will be significant and they will be severe. But I’m not going to parse what every different element might look like, those are conversations we would continue to have with our European partners, with Congress. Beyond that, I’m not going to parse further from here.

Speaker 25: (51:21)
[inaudible 00:51:21] Ukraine.

Jen Psaki: (51:22)
I think Jake Sullivan spoke to this pretty clearly just a few minutes ago.

Speaker 25: (51:29)
Can you give us an update on the remaining Fed nominees? He’s got a few left to make.

Jen Psaki: (51:29)
He does. We hope to have those soon and we continue to hope to have those out to you this month, yes. Yeah, absolutely. Go ahead.

Speaker 26: (51:36)
Thank you. Following up on the announcement of not sending an American delegation to Beijing for the Winter Games.

Jen Psaki: (51:43)

Speaker 26: (51:44)
You were just saying this is an example of action that the President would take. Would the President support the IOC moving the games from Beijing altogether?

Jen Psaki: (51:53)
I have not heard that’s an option under consideration. I can just speak to what the decisions are we’re making here from the U.S. government, which we spoke to you yesterday.

Speaker 26: (52:02)
He still believes though that the Olympic Games should be played in Beijing?

Jen Psaki: (52:05)
I’m not aware of a consideration of them being moved.

Speaker 26: (52:07)
And also, is the President right now engaging with Democrats in Congress on the current debate over lifting state and local tax cap for those who make over $400,000?

Jen Psaki: (52:18)
The SALT deduction?

Speaker 26: (52:19)

Jen Psaki: (52:20)
That is something, as you know, there is some support for in Congress. It’s not something the President proposed, but it is something that certainly is part of the discussion as some of these members who support it, which won’t surprise you, they’ve also raised it publicly with members of our team. So it is part of the discussions and the negotiations that are ongoing at a senior staff level.

Speaker 26: (52:39)
Does the President oppose it, SALT?

Jen Psaki: (52:40)
He didn’t propose it initially, but we are working to get this bill done.

Speaker 26: (52:45)
But does he oppose it?

Jen Psaki: (52:46)
Again, he didn’t propose it initially. We’re working to get this bill done and across the finish line, but it was not his proposal. Our objective continues to be to lower costs for the American people across the country on childcare, on elder care, on healthcare. This bill will do exactly that, create a universal pre-K system that has never existed in the past. There are components that there is support for that are still a part of the discussions. But I think you can note the President didn’t propose that initially. Go ahead.

Speaker 27: (53:18)
Yeah, thanks, Jen. Yesterday, you seemed to dismiss the idea of sending COVID-19 tests to all Americans, but other countries have taken similar aggressive steps to make testing free and available to all citizens. Singapore, for example, sent six test kits to all citizens in September. In the U.K., any citizen can order a pack of several testing kits all at once. Is the White House’s position on this simply a cost analysis or are there other reasons why the administration doesn’t think that sending COVID-19 tests to all Americans is a good strategy?

Jen Psaki: (53:51)
Well, let me give you an overarching comprehensive understanding of how we’re approaching this to give you a sense. And I appreciate the question. So our objective is to continue to scale up our testing program to meet demand and ensure that people who want tests are getting tests. And there are a range of ways people want tests. Some people want to do it in their homes, certainly, and we’ve seen an increase in demand for that in recent months. And we’ve quadrupled our capacity in that regards. We’ll keep building. Some people want to go to their primary care physician. Some people want to go to a community health center or a rural health center. Some people want to have their kids tested at school, an option that many public schools have made available. Oh, and private schools, I guess, as well have made available. So what what our focus is on is ensuring that everyone in America has access to free testing, whether at a doctor’s office, pharmacy, community testing site, or now at home.

Jen Psaki: (54:44)
And there’s a couple steps we’ve taken from the beginning and there’s obviously a lot of interest in testing now for a good reason. And, one, in February, we wrote new guidance to make insurers cover asymptomatic PCR and point of care tests critical to helping the majority of Americans who have private insurance not worry about burdensome test costs. So what that means is, before that, if you went to get a PCR test, as we know, which is a test that can certainly track very closely whether you have components of the virus, you had to pay for it. We now insured many months ago that was not the case. As I noted, we quadrupled the number of free pharmacy testing sites with a priority on vulnerable communities in addition to state and local community sites. So, today, there are 20,000 sites across the country with free quality tests. That means you can walk into the pharmacy, get a free test, get it done, ensure you’re taking that step. That’s the preference for some.

Jen Psaki: (55:42)
We’ve also secured funding from the Rescue Plan, invested it in hardest hit areas, $10 billion for schools to conduct testing, nearly $1 billion for rural clinics and hospitals. And toward the summer, we also planned for the school year, ensuring school districts had the resources to set up a testing program to ensure kids stayed in school. We also doubled down our work to get testing to congregate settings that were more vulnerable and where demand was higher. As Delta hit in the summer and demand increased for testing, we immediately jumped into action, and as we’ve seen at home tests become more in demand, we’ve taken steps on that front to make them free. So if you have private insurance, we’re making sure you’ll get reimbursed by your insurer for at home test if that’s your preference, if that’s what you would like to do. And we made sure that the tests you get from your healthcare provider like PCR tests are covered with no copays. I also would note that we also announced last week, we’re sending 50 million free tests starting this month to convenient locations like health centers and community sites. So overarching, our objective here is to make them accessible, to make sure that people who want to get tested can get tested in any means they choose to do, and to make sure they’re free for everyone in America.

Speaker 27: (56:50)
And I understand all those efforts, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to just send them to all American homes? It seems like that would make it more readily available knowing that one is just sitting in your kitchen somewhere. Why isn’t that a way that would be an effective strategy?

Jen Psaki: (57:07)
Well, our assessment is that the best way to make these tests readily available and accessible to people is to make them available, meet people where they are, and make them available at places where people go, community health centers, rural health centers, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, schools, and also have a component where people can have tests for free at their home. Our approach is not to send everyone in the country a test just to have millions of tests go unused where we know others can make use of them. We have made an assessment about how to make them free and available to Americans across the country. That’s absolutely our objective and we’ll continue to build on it.

Speaker 27: (57:46)
And you did seem to reference costs yesterday. So is that a concern with just how logistically, financially how hard that would be to get to all American households?

Jen Psaki: (57:55)
Again, our objective is to make them readily available to people where they are across the country, and we have made the assessment that doing that is most effective by donating these 50 million tests to community health centers and rural health centers, by making them available at 20,000 pharmacies, by working with schools and workplaces to make testing available and also providing the option for people to get free tests in their house.

April: (58:20)

Speaker 27: (58:21)
Go ahead.

April: (58:22)
Two polar opposite questions, one, Ukraine and one-

Jen Psaki: (58:25)
I like the setup today that everybody’s doing, polar opposite, different topics. Go ahead.

April: (58:29)
Well, they are really.

Jen Psaki: (58:30)

April: (58:30)
Ukraine and the messaging and the results on the vaccines, not just being fully vaccinated, but now the boosters as the vaccines are winning. On Ukraine, Jake talked about clarity, he talked about deescalating, he talked about being direct, the President was, but as the effort is to deescalate, is there any more room for the President to maybe have another conversation, another direct conversation with Putin on this in efforts as we seem like we are at the 11th hour?

Jen Psaki: (59:03)
Sure. April, I will say that the President certainly values leader to leader diplomacy, as you’ve seen evidence of over the course of the last several weeks. What they agreed to at the end of the call, that there would be close coordination and discussion at the level of senior national security staff. That’s the next natural step here. It’s really up to President Putin to determine what the path forward will look like. So I don’t have any calls to predict or preview at this point in time.

April: (59:29)
But it’s not a hypothetical to say, leader to leader, Putin is someone this country has had some issues with over the years and it’s not about trust. It’s about watching what he does. So the question once again is, is there an opening, a possibility if there needs to be a conversation, would the President be amenable to talking once again to Putin?

Jen Psaki: (59:54)
Well, the President just ended a call with him just a couple of hours ago so I think we’re going to see how this goes here with conversations and important follow-up. But I don’t think the President has ever hesitated to have leader to leader conversations if that is going to be effective and helpful in resolving any circumstance.

April: (01:00:13)
And the last piece on the booster with the messaging, what is the next piece? What are you getting back from the nation as you’re asking for boosters? Dr. Fauci has said that the two shots are now waning. We’re seeing more people who were vaccinated in the hospital from breakthroughs and now boosters. What are you seeing from America? Is there a weariness or are people responding to the call?

Jen Psaki: (01:00:40)
We’ve seen people responding to the call, April. I mean, our boosters program is off to a very strong start in our assessment. 47 million people have already received a booster. About one million people are getting boosted every single day, more than ever before. So this is in strong demand, which is good news because as you noted, it will help protect people further. It will help give another layer of additional protection. And we have plenty of supply across the country, 80,000 sites, and we’re working with governors and FEMA to ensure we have plenty of easy and convenient locations. So there has been an increase in boosting by people over the past week plus, one million people a day, and we’re continuing to make sure they’re accessible around the country. Karen, go ahead. Okay, I’ll go to Karen because I just called on her. Go ahead.

Karen: (01:01:26)
Thank you. Somewhat of a follow-up on the testing. The CDC is now urging people to use a rapid test before they go into an indoor gathering even if they’re vaccinated or don’t have symptoms. You talked about the pre-test that will soon be out there for Americans, but it’s still going to take some time. Right now, they’re still a little bit pricey. The administration’s invested billions of dollars to bring the cost of that down. When do you anticipate they will be cheaper for Americans to buy if they wanted to just walk into a pharmacy?

Jen Psaki: (01:01:53)
Well, we do know now that we are giving 50 million tests now, this month, to community health centers and rural health centers across the country. And there are already 20,000 pharmacies across the country where free testing is available. And you can also go to your doctor and get a free test. So there are options. We are working to implement some of these specifics by mid-January in terms of how people can get reimbursed for tests, I think is what you’re asking about. We’re doing that as rapidly as we can as people are looking to get home tests. They’re about $7 a test and certainly we’ll continue. Our objective here, our larger objective, is also to create a market so that, that cost continues going down, that there are more tests on the market, and the costs continue to decrease over time.

Karen: (01:02:41)
And why didn’t we see the CDC make this recommendation before the Thanksgiving holiday, that people should start doing this, before people were gathering indoors with family and friends, that they should consider doing these rapid tests?

Jen Psaki: (01:02:53)
Well, again, I would really point you to the CDC because they look at a range of data and science as they make assessments or make additional recommendations. And I would encourage you to ask them that exact question. Thank you so much, everyone.

Speaker 28: (01:03:05)
Thank you, Jen.

Speaker 29: (01:03:05)
Thanks, Jen.

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