May 1, 2022

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki 4/28/22 Transcript

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki 4/28/22 Transcript
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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki 4/28/22. Read the transcript here.


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Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (00:00)
Two items for all of you, at the top. Today, we released a report highlighting the historic small business boom under the Biden-Harris Administration. Last year, Americans applied to start 5.4 million new businesses, 20% more than any year on record. Small businesses are creating more jobs than ever before. It’s been particularly strong for entrepreneurs of color. For example, Hispanic entrepreneurs started new businesses in 2021 at the fastest rate and more than a decade, 23% faster than pre-pandemic levels.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (00:34)
You heard the president say this today, but this approach is in stark contrast to congressional Republicans’ tax plan, which would raise taxes by an average of almost $1,200, on nearly half of small business owners. Not only does President Biden reject congressional Republicans’ plans to increase taxes on half of small business owners, he also has an economic strategy to keep the small business boom going, including: expanding access to capital; making historic investments in technical assistance programs, to help entrepreneurs identify resources; leveraging federal procurement to direct hundreds of billions of dollars in government contracts to small businesses; and leveling the playing field for small business owners, to reforming the tax code.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (01:16)
I also wanted to note that today, the food and drug administration announced two proposed rules, one to prohibit menthol cigarettes, and one to prohibit flavored cigars. The rules announced today would enforce regulations related to what stores sell, and what companies manufacture and distribute, which is a critical action to prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers, help adult smokers quit, and significantly reduce tobacco-related health disparities. With that, why don’t you kick us off?

Speaker 1: (01:47)
Hello. I have a few questions about student loan forgiveness. First off, has the president concluded that he has the power to do this unilaterally? Secondly, does he believe that means testing is the correct approach to student loan forgiveness?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (01:59)
There’s been no conclusion of any process internally yet, but you heard the president talk this morning about his ongoing consideration of how to provide additional relief to many Americans who still have student loans, even though they have not paid a penny on federal student loans since he took office. What was the second part of your question?

Speaker 1: (02:20)
Has he decided to go with means testing?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (02:20)
He has talked in the past about how he doesn’t believe that millionaires and billionaires, obviously, should benefit, or even people from the highest income. That’s certainly something he would be looking at.

Speaker 1: (02:30)
Just want to be very clear about the power to do this. He’s looking at doing this issue-

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (02:35)

Speaker 1: (02:35)
But you’re not saying if he’s going to send the bill to Congress, or he’s actually going to do it himself.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (02:40)
We definitely know he has the legal ability to sign a bill Congress passes. What we’re really talking about is authorities through executive action, which we’re continuing to look at, and he’s continuing to consider.

Speaker 1: (02:53)
Lastly, what concerns does he have about the growing cost of college? Obviously, the cost of college has been rising very quickly. This would reduce borrowers’ out of pocket cost, that would pay down some of their debt, but what about that cost of the education upfront?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (03:09)
From the beginning of his administration, and I would say through the course of his career, he has expressed an interest on the increasing cost of college, and the barriers that poses to people getting a two year or four year education. He has taken a number of steps since he took office to bring down costs for Americans, including bringing down the cost of college. The American Rescue Plan provided nearly $40 billion in higher education relief for colleges and universities, much of which was earmarked for emergency financial aid, to help students to make college more affordable for current and future students. He also called for, and Congress passed, a $400 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, the largest increase in over a decade. Additionally, we have now approved the cancellation of more than $18.5 billion in student loan debt for more than 750,000 borrowers.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (04:01)
While he’s continuing to consider what executive actions he could take using his own authority, even though if Congress sent him a bill tomorrow, he could sign it, and he would sign it, to give $10,000 of student debt relief, he has not hesitated, and has taken additional steps.

Speaker 1: (04:17)
The final question, in response to Republicans like Senator Romney, who say this is a political giveaway, to consider counseling student loan debt?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (04:25)
I would say, the president’s view is that, as the leader of the country, what he needs to do is continue to provide relief to people who need it most, to help people get some extra breathing room. That includes this consideration of getting people relief who have taken steps to further their education, and maybe taken steps to advance their family circumstances. Go ahead.

Speaker 2: (04:49)
Thanks. Switching gears to Title 42, the president said today that the administration would comply with whatever the courts decide. Just to be clear, there’s not a plan to fight this decision?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (04:59)
That would be a decision made by the Department of Justice, but they haven’t even done a formal ruling that they’re considering, at this point in time.

Speaker 2: (05:06)
But, there’s the temporary…the TRO. At this point, the administration doesn’t have anything to announce, in terms of that?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (05:13)
They verbally did the TRO, they have not done, I don’t believe, a more formal written one that has been looked at or considered by the Department of Justice, at this point in time.

Speaker 2: (05:22)
Does the president disagree with this ruling?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (05:24)
Again, it’s the Department of Justice to look at this. The president has talked about how the authority is given to the CDC to make a decision about when the conditions exist to lift Title 42. They made that decision, he certainly supports that, and that’s why we’re preparing to lift it through the Department of Homeland Security, and an inter-agency process.

Speaker 2: (05:45)
If this CDC determined, like you just said, the order was no longer necessary, then it wouldn’t make sense to not fight this, to let it stand.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (05:53)
The Department of Justice would make that decision. There hasn’t even been a formal issuing by the court, it’s been a verbal report. They said they would need to look at that. They would make any announcement about any legal action.

Speaker 2: (06:05)
I just want to ask you, we continue to hear these Democratic senators that were briefed this week, Cortez Mastro was the latest. She was briefed by the administration, and said that, even though you’ve been saying there’s this comprehensive plan to deal with the border after Title 42 is lifted, she has not seen a comprehensive plan. She said, “She did not hear a comprehensive plan on how they are going to address the surge, or the resources needed to make sure we are addressing the drug trafficking across the border.” Your response to her, and big picture, why Democrats aren’t United on this.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (06:35)
I can’t speak for all Democrats. I can tell you that we share the frustration about how broken our immigration system is, and how there needs to be fixes at the border, whether that is smarter security funding, or fixing the asylum processing system that’s long been broken. We would welcome the interest of any Democrat or Republican to work with us on that effort, and talk about it, and work for it. Work on moving forward the bill the president proposed on his first day in office. Secretary Mayorkas, who oversees this, of course, has been testifying. I think he’s testifying to four committees, including the House Judiciary Committee, today. He laid out six pillars of our plan, including components that address exactly those specific pieces. How we would surge resources; personnel, transportation, medical support; how we’re enhancing CBP processing; how we’re administering consequences for unlawful entry; how we’re bolstering the capacity of non-governmental organizations; what we’re doing to target and disrupt the transnational criminal organizations; and how we’re going to deter a irregular migration.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (07:38)
This is not an immigration policy. This is how we’re implementing the lifting of Title 42. We need a longer-term, more comprehensive immigration reform policy. We’d welcome any efforts to work with that with members of Congress. Go ahead.

Speaker 3: (07:51)
Hey Jen. The request for $33 billion, how quickly do you expect it will move through Congress, and when is the deadline for when you absolutely need it?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (08:00)
I’m not here to set new deadlines, but I can tell you that both needs are urgent. I would say that need is urgent, as is the need for COVID funding. In terms of where we are with spending, to give you a sense of the money that we’ve already allocated, or putting on the ground to the Ukrainians, in the form of military assistance, I stumbled through that a little bit. As you know, we had $3.5 billion in military security assistance. We have about $250 million of that left, in draw down. Obviously, we will work to expedite that, and provide that to the Ukrainians. In order to continue to help assist them, help make sure they have the weapons they need, the artillery they need, the equipment they need, it is certainly urgent to move forward on this funding.

Speaker 3: (08:50)
What is your view on why the economy shrunk 1.4% during the first quarter?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (08:57)
GDP, which is what that’s a measure of, measures a couple of different components of economic data. Consumption, investment, inventory, and exports. On a number of these data components, we had very positive signs in the same set of data, including consumption. Consumer spending was up by about 2.5%. On investment, business investment, residential investment, both up as well. On exports, the number was down, but that is largely because our economy is doing better than many economies around the world. While we were purchasing a lot of goods from other countries, there wasn’t the same capacity to purchase our goods. That is why that number was lower. On inventory, which is another piece of data that is measured, quarter four of last year had the largest inventory number of any quarter in history, in large part because, as the supply chain problems were being fixed, thanks in large part to the president’s efforts, businesses were able to get goods, and they made enormous purchases, the largest numbers to stock their inventory of any quarter in history.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (10:07)
What this data is measuring is changes in growth from quarter to quarter. Because of that, even though this was the fifth largest inventory quarter in history, in comparison with the fourth quarter of last year, it showed a decrease, which led to the number. What many economists, Jason Furman has spoken to this, and others, what they look at as measures of the strength of the economy, and what they’re monitoring closely from quarter to quarter as important indicators, are consumer spending, business investment, residential investment. All of these increased at strong rates in the first quarter, as did the overall demand, and are good signs for the strength of the economy.

Speaker 3: (10:49)
Lastly, to what extent are you looking at cutting tariffs on Chinese goods, as a way to ease inflation?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (10:56)
There’s an ongoing review of that, Led by Ambassador Tai at USTR. We are certainly continuing to look at, where these tariffs put in place by the prior administration, don’t make sense. One of the factors that we’re looking at, as a part of this review, is certainly the impact on jobs and wages, and, of course, on inflation. We’re also looking…and costs, of course, of goods. We’re also looking at, where we have concerns about the economic policies and approaches of China. I don’t have anything to preview at this point, in terms of how that review is going. Go ahead.

Speaker 4: (11:29)
One point of clarification: does the president want this funding for Ukraine tied to the COVID 19 funding?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (11:37)
We’re not making a predetermination of that from here. We put forward both of these funding requests today because they’re both vital, they’re both important. We need them both to help the Ukrainians, and to help ensure we’re continuing our COVID programs here in this country, and around the world. We’re not going to predetermine for Congress how they move forward. There’s an urgency in moving them forward.

Speaker 4: (11:59)
Okay. It was confusing, because in his letter to Congress, he seemed to say he did want it tied to the COVID 19 funding, but he told reporters he didn’t care if it was tied to the COVID 19 funding.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (12:07)
That was not the intention of how it was written. It was intended to convey, we’re putting these both forward today.

Speaker 4: (12:13)
The White House is not saying that it should be tied to the COVID 19 funding?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (12:16)
No. We’re saying, “These are both urgent. We would like to move these forward. We’ll work with you to determine how to get that done.”

Speaker 4: (12:23)
Okay. You said you don’t want to put a deadline on when Congress needs to pass and authorize this $33 billion request that the president has made. How many more weeks can Ukraine go, based on what they have so far, and based on the drawn down authority that the president still has before you do start to see interruptions in military aid, economic assistance, and humanitarian aid?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (12:44)
I would say, because we have $250 million left-

Speaker 4: (12:49)
Not very much though, compared to what you’re asking.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (12:50)
I’m know, I’m getting to your point, I’m getting to the point here. There’s obviously more that’s needed, and we want to be able to continue to provide a range of security and military assistance to the Ukrainians. Now, we strategically front-loaded the mill.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (13:03)
Instance to the Ukrainians. Now, we strategically front loaded the military and security assistance we were providing, a couple of weeks ago, expedited the delivery of it, because we knew that as Russia was repositioning in the East and really changing their strategic approach to focus on the Donbas, they would need that on the front end. So it doesn’t mean that it will be exactly the same pace in every week, but certainly, there is an urgency to getting this funding done. There has been bipartisan… Through. There’s been bipartisan support in the past, and we’re certainly looking forward to working with them to get this done as quickly as possible.

Speaker 5: (13:34)
And it would seem to suggest that there is a timeline, since officials told reporters today, briefing it, that they believe this is enough for Ukraine for the next five months, to last at the end of the fiscal year, which of course, that would start a few days, if you’re judging all the-

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (13:47)
Well, that’s a different question than a timeline for getting the package done. I mean, we did this on a fiscal year basis, because that seemed to make sense, of course. And also because we wanted to do it over the long term for planning purposes. But it doesn’t mean that the funding would be delivered tomorrow, obviously. We have to get it through and move it through Congress, and we want to do that as quickly as possible.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (14:09)
Go ahead.

Speaker 6: (14:10)
Thanks, Jen. A quick follow on student loans. Today, the president said that he is not considering the $50,000 figure that some Democrats have pushed for. Is there a range you can provide for what he is considering? Is it more than the $10,000 both of you have mentioned before?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (14:27)
He has said that before, so today was not the first time he has said that about $50,000 in the past. I guess it’s been a few months. I don’t have a top range for you. I think he was just reacting to that size of the number he said in the past, and I’ve reiterated that he would be happy to sign a piece of legislation or a bill that came to his desk that canceled $10,000 in student loans. Could be more than that. We’re looking at that. But, I think $50,000 was just his indication of that size and his opposition to that.

Speaker 6: (14:57)
Got it. Thanks. And then today, when he was talking about the supplemental budget, he said that NATO allies and EU partners are going to pay their fair share of the cost as well. How does he define fair share?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (15:12)
I think he was trying to send the message, which has already been underway, that we are going to continue to give a range of, and a significant arranged amount of military and security assistance. But other countries, we expect them to continue to step up as well, as this is going to be a sustained effort, a longer war, as we’ve talked about before. We’re going to need other countries to continue to provide a range of assistance as well. And we are far and away. The United States is the largest provider of military, humanitarian and economic assistance. And, other countries have taken steps. I mean, Germany just announced this week their plan or their intention, and they may have been delivered to provide tanks, something they have never done before. A number of other countries have announced steps to provide a range of military assistance and weapons that they have never provided before. But it was more the president sending a message about the need for every country to remain committed to this sustained long-term effort to support the Ukrainians.

Speaker 6: (16:10)
But he’s not saying that they should be paying as much as the US in terms of a monetary figure?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (16:18)
Every country is going to be able to provide different amounts and different types of assistance, so it’s not prejudging that. It’s just an ask and a reminder and a call to the world, that we need to be in this for the long term, and we all need to continue to provide a range of assistance.

Speaker 6: (16:35)
I have one more on Paul Whelan. Yesterday, I asked you about what his brother said. Today, he himself issued a statement. And he is asking, “Why was I left behind?” He mentioned he’s pleased Trevor is home with his family. But he is asking, “Why hasn’t more been done to secure my release?” What is the administration’s response to Paul Whelan?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (16:57)
I would say that we will continue to do everything possible to bring Paul Whelan home. We are in regular touch with his family and his family members. And we don’t outline in detail everything we are doing publicly, because our objective is to return him home with his family. The president is focused on that, and we would say to him, “We are going to continue to do everything possible to bring you home.”

Speaker 6: (17:21)
Can you say whether there has been any progress made in the past two, three months on their cases on Whelan and Brittney Griner?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (17:30)
It wouldn’t be constructive to outline or detail any specifics from here, because our objective is to be successful. And, talking about these cases publicly and getting into specifics often isn’t constructive toward that goal.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (17:42)
Go ahead.

Kristen: (17:43)
Jen, thank you. I want to start by asking you a few questions about Ukraine. The UN Secretary General met with President Putin. He’s meeting with President Zelensky. He’s trying to strike a deal to get those who are going to steel plant out. The Ukraine officials were very skeptical of these talks heading into this week. Does the administration feel as though there’s been any progress that has come out of this talks with Putin and Zelensky?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (18:08)
Look, I would say that, it’s not for us to make a judgment from here. We are here to support the efforts of the Ukrainians and the Ukrainian leaders to pursue diplomatic talks and diplomatic and engagements, should they see that as constructive. We have not seen evidence that President Putin or the Russians have taken steps, whether it is allowing for humanitarian convoys to move forward, humanitarian assistance, creating corridors that would give an indication of that. But our objective is continue to implement the strategy that we laid out from early in this conflict, which is to provide the type of security and military assistance to help the Ukrainians fight and win on the battlefield. They obviously did that in Kiev in pushing back the Russians. To give them economic and humanitarian assistance, to strengthen their hand in diplomatic talks.

Kristen: (19:00)
Against the backdrop of the president’s announcement today and request for this $33 billion aid package, can you say, is it the policy goal of the United States for Ukraine to defeat Russia?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (19:12)
Well, look, it depends on how you… We’re not going to define that from here. That’s for the Ukrainians to define. What we are going to do from here is to continue to provide them with a range of security and military assistance, as is evidenced by the package that the president proposed and put forward to Capitol Hill today, to strengthen their hand in the negotiating table, and ensure that they have the support and backing of the United States and the world.

Kristen: (19:37)
Just to be clear, and I understand what you’re saying, it’s for the Ukrainians to define. But, does the United States think that success has to include Russians leaving all of the new portions of Ukraine that they’ve currently invaded?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (19:49)
Again, we’re not going to define that from here, Kristen. There are a range of negotiations that may happen and may take place. And we’re just not going to get ahead of that.

Kristen: (19:58)
Let me ask you about Build Back Better, if I might, or the remains of Build Back Better.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (20:02)

Kristen: (20:04)
Given that you are pushing for this new aid, given that you are pushing for pandemic aid as well, where does that fall right now on the agenda? Is there urgency to get those priorities passed as well?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (20:17)
Absolutely. I mean, here’s the thing about Congress and governing. You can, and you are able to do more than one thing at one time, right? Just even look at the committees of jurisdiction in Congress, the committees that are considering and looking at… Some of the military assistance and security packages may not be the same that are considering and writing pieces of legislation on a reconciliation package. There is a great deal of interest and passion on Capitol Hill, among Democrats, and moving forward on the president’s agenda and the president’s proposal to lower the cost of prescription drugs, to lower the cost of childcare, of healthcare, of elder care. And we’re going to continue advocating and fighting for that.

Kristen: (21:00)
In order for it to get done against the backdrop of this election year, do you need to have a deal in place by Memorial Day? That has obviously been floated as a deadline.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (21:08)
I’m not here to set new deadlines, Kristen. We know there is interest. There’s passion. There’s advocacy. We’re continuing to do a lot of work behind the scenes, and we’re going to continue to fight to get it done.

Kristen: (21:20)
I know you don’t want to talk about deadlines, but if you could give us a reality check. The president said today, he’s going to announce something on student loans in just a few weeks. You had said that there could potentially be an announcement by August, the end of the summer. Realistically, can we expect to hear something from the president in the next few weeks on this?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (21:37)
Stay tuned and we’ll see. Obviously, we have to continue a policy process. The president will make a decision. And, once we have a decision to make, we will, of course, announce that. What I was getting at really is, the end of August is also the time that the student loan payment deferral, that’s the kind of period that it was extended through. So, it was more about making a decision before then. We always like to beat timelines here, you know?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (22:02)
So, go ahead.

Jackie: (22:03)
Thank you, Jen. On student loan debt.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (22:06)

Jackie: (22:06)
The Committee for Responsible Budget has spoken out against this, saying they’ve done a calculation that canceling $10,000 per borrower would cost $250 billion. $50,000 per borrower would cost $950 billion. What do you say to people, sort of in their camp, who are concerned that canceling student debt can have inflationary impact?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (22:26)
Well, I haven’t looked at all those numbers and what incomes they would apply to, nor has there been a proposal that the president has put out on this front, or anything that’s passed through Congress. But what I would say broadly speaking is that, when you look at the choices that need to be made, the president is looking at the impact of student loans, something that many people in this country, millions of Americans undertook to get a better education, to make sure they were advancing their own knowledge, to maybe help their family have a better life, that finding ways to provide relief to students, to make sure that these working families are getting relief, is more important than tax cuts to millionaires, billionaires and corporations. And, we can make choices about where we invest and where we think we can make the tax system more fair. But, there isn’t even a bill that’s moved through Congress, nor have we put a proposal together. So, those numbers aren’t based on any reality at this moment.

Jackie: (23:22)
Broadly speaking, is there any concern that… Given this narrative that it could have an inflationary impact that’s coming from critics of this administration, we’re looking at the economy, looking at inflation and having problems with where it stands, is there a concern that canceling student debt could make it hard for the Joe Manchins of Congress to sign on to bills that would pass elements of Build Back Better, that you guys are still trying to get through, which he said he won’t do because of inflation?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (23:49)
Well, I’m not going to speak obviously for Senator Manchin. I haven’t heard him made that point in the past either. What I would say is that, the way that inflation impacts people across the country is costs, right? Costs to their bank accounts, costs to their budgets. And what we’re talking about here is how to provide people with relief, how we can provide them with relief or consider providing them with relief, so that they have more money to spend on things in their lives. And providing student loan relief is exactly that. And, the president has taken a range of steps to address and lower cost for people. Considering this is one of them. Extending the pause on student loan payments is one of them. But also fixing the glitch, the family glitch and the Affordable Care Act is another one of them. So when we talk about inflation, sometimes we talk about it like a 50,000 foot ivory tower economist might, and really, how inflation impacts people is costs and what they’re paying out of their pockets. So actually considering this would be helping Americans address exactly that issue.

Jackie: (24:52)
And then on this new report that the Department of Homeland Security is setting up a disinformation governance board to tackle misinformation ahead of the midterms, Secretary Mayorkas said that part of its intention was to tackle misinformation in Hispanic communities especially. Can you give us an idea of what this board is going to be doing, what their authority would look like? How that-?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (25:14)
Sure, Jackie. I really haven’t dug into this exactly. I mean, we of course support this effort, but let me see if I can get more specifics. We know that there has been a range of disinfo out there about a range of topics. I mean, including COVID for example, and also elections and eligibility, but I will check and see if there’s more specifics.

Jackie: (25:32)
There’s been some criticism of the person who’s been chosen to oversee this board. She had previously called the Hunter Biden laptop a Trump campaign product, seeming to discredit its validity or validity of reporting surrounding that. How can you assuage concerns of people who are looking at this person who’s been appointed to this position and wondering if she’s going to be able to accurately judge misinformation, now that a lot of that reporting has been proven…?

Jackie: (26:03)
… now that a lot of that reporting has been proven to be factual in some ways.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (26:06)
Well, I don’t have any comments on the laptop, but what I can tell you is that it sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities. I’m not sure who opposes that effort, and I don’t know who this individual is, so I have no comment on it specifically. Go.

Jackie: (26:24)
Her name is Nina Jankowicz. She also just recently made some polarizing comments about Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase. It’s just getting some pushback from critics who are saying this person may not be the right choice for a board that is run by the Department of Homeland Security. Can you speak to that at all?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (26:45)
I don’t have any information about this individual. I can check on more information about the board. Go ahead.

Speaker 7: (26:51)
How much of the original 13.6 billion for Ukraine has actually been spent at this point? Reporters are still trying to understand the answer to that.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (27:00)
Well, I noted a little bit earlier, I think, in proactive, preemptive response to this question, that of the 3.5 billion on security, we’ve spent 3.25 billion of that already, which we have transparently provided regular info to all of you on. In terms of the humanitarian and economic assistance, a lot of it has been allocated to how it would be spent. I can see if we have an update on what has actually gone to ground.

Speaker 7: (27:27)
Okay. And secondly, on the menthol ban, some Black community activists, the ACLU, members of the CDC have raised concerns that it could push more of the illicit market, which would lead to racially profiling Black smokers. Can this administration assure that won’t happen?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (27:47)
Absolutely, because this rule would go after manufacturers and people who sell, not individuals who smoke menthol cigarettes. And it would save lives.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (27:57)
I’d also note that the NAACP put out a statement saying for decades, the tobacco industry has been targeting African-Americans and have contributed to the skyrocketing rates of heart disease, stroke, and cancer across our community. The tobacco industry is on a narrow quest for profit, and they have been killing us along the way. The NAACP has been calling for a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes for years now, and we applaud the FDA’s plan. But what we’re talking about here is these rules are estimated that… it’s estimated that eliminating menthol and tobacco products could prevent up to 654, 000 deaths over the next 40 years and up to 238,000 deaths among African-Americans.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (28:39)
But this is not about going after individuals smoking menthol cigarettes. This is about manufacturers and people who are selling them. Go ahead.

Speaker 8: (31:03)
Why does President Biden believe pro-life tax payers, Catholics among them, should fund [crosstalk 00:28:51] clinics that advise women on how to get an abortion [crosstalk 00:28:53].

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:06)
Sir, we don’t…

Speaker 8: (31:06)
[inaudible 00:28:55] give these people five and six questions. I get one, don’t I? [crosstalk 00:28:57].

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:06)
I think if you could sit here and be respectful of your colleagues here, that might work better.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:06)
Go ahead.

Speaker 8: (31:06)
Why does President Biden believe pro-life taxpayers, Catholics among them [crosstalk 00:29:05].

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:06)
Sir, sir. I think he’s the next question. Go ahead.

Speaker 8: (31:06)
[crosstalk 00:29:09]

Speaker 9: (31:06)
On the [inaudible 00:29:11] meeting, your statement laid out a bunch of domestic issues that would be discussed, and regional issues like economic cooperation, et cetera. I was wondering if the President was planning to raise [inaudible 00:29:23] attitude towards Russia and Ukraine. He’s been really loathe to criticize Russia ideas and really join this international effort. So is the President planning to raise that tomorrow?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:06)
You know, it’s a good question. The primary focus of the meeting, as you outlined, is about kind of getting ahead of the Summit of the Americas, talking about the agenda. Obviously, there’s a lot to be discussed as it relates to migration. And this meeting was planned in advance of our long term planning of the potential lifting of Title 42 as well. It is often on the President’s mind, as you know, Russia and Ukraine and the conflict. So while it may not be on the preemptive agenda, we will have a more comprehensive readout once the meeting is concluded.

Speaker 9: (31:06)
[inaudible 00:30:03] GDP report. I’m just wondering if the contraction has the White House rethinking its support for the Fed’s plan to raise interest rates.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:06)
We continue to support the intention or stated intention of the independent Federal Reserve to recalibrate, and we support that effort. I noted a lot of the different data measurements here because I think it’s important to note that the inventory piece was not unexpected. I mean, we actually spoke to it a couple of days ago as well, given the record inventory numbers from the fourth quarter of last year, and the fact that it measures the comparison and the change of growth from quarter to quarter.

Speaker 9: (31:06)
And then lastly, this happened while you came out here so you might not have heard about it, but Senator Manchin said at a hearing that he thinks the electric vehicle tax credit, quote, “makes no sense.” And I’m wondering what your reaction to that is and whether you think that further complicates a skinny reconciliation bill getting through.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:06)
I would say that Senator Manchin remains a friend of the President’s and someone we will continue to work with and look forward to continuing engagements with.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:06)
Go ahead.

Speaker 8: (31:07)
[crosstalk 00:31:07] question. Why does President Biden believe pro-life taxpayers, Catholics among them…

Kristen: (31:07)
Okay. So earlier, you were asked [crosstalk 00:31:08]

Speaker 8: (31:07)
… should fund Title X clinics that advise women on how to get abortions?

Kristen: (31:10)
… economic and humanitarian assistance aid amount. I’m wondering, the military aid, it seems like the President said has, quote, basically run out. The military… I’m sorry. The humanitarian and economic aid, if it has not yet run out, could those funds be diverted first from the White House to additional security and military assistance? Is that something that you all can do? Is it something that you are considering?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (31:30)
I don’t believe… It’s a good question. I don’t believe that’s under consideration, in large part because the humanitarian and economic assistance is vital. Think about the number of the millions of refugees, the millions of people who have been, become homeless as a result of this, or no longer in their homes as a result of this war. And there are a range of economic needs that President Zelensky has spoken about himself that will be needed over the coming months. So that’s why there are multiple buckets, and that will continue to be the case. I’m not aware of any consideration of reallocation of funds.

Kristen: (32:02)
Then, the other question I was going to ask is in terms of having the 250 military… I’m sorry, $250 million in military assistance that remains, could you all essentially spend money on the front side in the coming weeks, if Congress is unable to pass something, recoup it from the supplemental later? And if you do that, is there a limit to how much money you can spend that way [inaudible 00:32:23]

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (32:23)
Just so I understand, I may have to ask OMB this question, can we kind of get a line of credit, of sorts?

Kristen: (32:29)
Correct. Exactly.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (32:30)
Okay. To kind of purchase, or things along those lines. Let me check and see with our budgetary experts. No one knows more than how this works than Shalanda Young, so I will check with her and get back to you.

Kristen: (32:41)
The last question I was going to ask is, is it the administration’s policy to continue to provide essentially an unlimited amount of money to Ukraine? I mean, is there a top line budget, and is the thinking that the administration will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it needs for how much money it needs?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (32:57)
Well, I think we did this five month request because we wanted to be able to do longer term planning and work with the Ukrainians, our European partners. This is not all for Ukraine, it’s also for some of our Eastern European partners and others to help support them during this time as well. But I’m not going to get ahead of where we will be in three months, four months, five months. Our objective is continue to support the Ukrainians, but I’m not going to get ahead of where we are at this point in time.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (33:24)
I can note, and I know this goes to Alex’s earlier question, I mean, a little bit in terms of the other components, and I can see if there’s more of a specific of what’s been spent down, but when it comes to humanitarian, economic, food, and other security assistance, some of that funding is, you know, 1.7 billion to ensure continuity of Ukraine’s democratic operations and provide other macroeconomic assistance, hundreds of millions of dollars in food, shelter, and other humanitarian aid to Ukrainians. But we can also see if there’s more specifics on where we are with the spend out of it.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (33:54)
Go ahead.

Speaker 7: (33:54)
Yeah. Revisiting student loan debt and that issue, why isn’t President Biden willing to go as high as $50,000? That’s the figure that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pointed to. That’s the figure that a lot of progressive Democrats have pointed to. So what about that number gives the President concern?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (34:14)
The President himself has spoken to this in the past, so I’d really point you to his own words on this front, but…

Speaker 7: (34:20)
Remind me what he said.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (34:21)
I’m happy to get them to you after the briefing. But what I can tell you is that the President has said many times that he would be happy to sign a bill that would provide $10,000 in relief to individuals who have student loans, and Congress could send him that. That hasn’t happened yet. That could be the first focus of Congress, as an example. And he’s continuing to consider what he has the executive authority or authority to do with his own power. So I’m just not going to get ahead of that consideration process.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (34:50)
Go ahead.

Speaker 8: (34:50)
Simple question. Why does President Bi… [crosstalk 00:34:52]

Speaker 10: (34:52)
You mentioned that $33 billion package and how urgent it is. We don’t yet really have a timeline on how urgent, if it’s weeks or months. Can you detail at all sort of the White House strategy behind getting that money secured? The President obviously, next week, is going to Alabama to tour Lockheed Martin and the javelins, which may be one opportunity…

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (35:16)
Yeah, to see javelins being made.

Speaker 10: (35:16)
That may be one opportunity to draw attention to this. Are there other things that the White House is doing strategically to get that urgency felt by members of Congress?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (35:25)
Look, I think you are going to see a full court press from us, this funding, as well as the COVID funding, which is vital to continuation of our fight against the pandemic. And you will see that in the form of engagement with members on the Hill and committees. You will see that in the form of our Secretary of State, our Secretary of Defense, and other national security officials speaking publicly, testifying, as many of them are, and speaking to it during testimony. And obviously, you noted the President’s visit to the factory, the Lockheed Martin factory, I believe, in Alabama next week. Even the decision today for the President to make the announcement himself, instead of doing just a background briefing and providing all of the details to all of you, was an effort to talk through the vital need of this assistance, what it would go to, and elevate it to that level.

Speaker 10: (36:20)
And then, is there any effort, I guess you heard this a little bit from him today, talking about how Ukrainians are giving up their lives, so the money… I guess, is there anything that the White House is doing to address the concern from some Americans that this is an awful lot of money going to a foreign country when we have domestic needs at home? I don’t know if there’s anything proactively that you guys may do to try to make that case for why this amount of money is needed.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (36:46)
Well, I would say we’ve also seen an incredibly heart felt outpouring of support from the American people for the efforts of the United States to lead in standing up to Russian aggression, and to stand up in favor and support of the Ukrainians. To the President, this is about American leadership in the world. It’s also about standing up for democracy versus autocracy. It’s about standing up against one foreign country invading another foreign country. And it’s about American leadership in the world.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (37:20)
So we will continue to articulate that and make that clear. And that is part of the reason why the President also detailed in specificity, today, what all of this would go to. I mean, some of it, a great deal of it is, of course, to military assistance to fight this war, but there is funding in there, as he noted this morning, for food security and ensuring that we are addressing any food shortages around the world. There’s assistance that is going into humanitarian assistance and helping the outflow of refugees. And so it was important to him, personally, to lay out the specifics in his remarks this morning.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (37:54)
Go ahead.

Speaker 8: (37:55)
So again, a really simple question. [crosstalk 00:37:55]

Speaker 11: (37:55)
Yeah, thanks, Jen. Looking ahead to the President…

Speaker 8: (38:00)
One question. You give these people six questions in the front row.

Speaker 12: (38:01)
It’s disrespectful.

Speaker 11: (38:01)
Looking ahead to the President’s trip to Japan that was announced last night, I’m wondering if you can talk about [in the Quad summit 00:38:05].

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (38:05)

Speaker 11: (38:05)
Wondering if you can talk about how the President will raise a unified response to Russia with India at the table, and then also sort of the China, Taiwan issue.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (38:14)
Well, on the first part, on Russia, I would say first, we’ve had a number of engagements, as you know, with leaders in India about our approach to supporting the Ukrainians in this war, whether that is sanctions, the enormous sanctions package we’re putting in we’ve in place, or, of course, the assistance we’ve provided. We will convey the same sentiment in this meeting. Now, this meeting is several weeks away, so a lot can certainly happen. And as you know, other members of the Quad have also been vital partners and vital supporters of the Ukrainians’ effort to fight the war, including Japan. I mean, Japan, just as an example, has not only provided a range of assistance, but they’ve also agreed to divert some of the LNG resources to help Europe. So there’s a number of steps they have…

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (39:03)
… For some of the LNG resources to help Europe. So there’s a number of steps they have also taken that will be a part of the discussion. Certainly, the President will provide an update on what we’re doing and where things stand at that point in time.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (39:12)
We’re just not quite there on previewing the agenda yet. Obviously, the President’s position on Taiwan has not changed. He will certainly restate it during this meeting. But I’m sure we’ll have more to preview as we get closer to the trip.

Speaker 13: (39:23)
[inaudible 00:39:23] China, Taiwan, how will that be raised as well?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (39:26)
Again, as we get closer to the trip, there’s not a change in our policy. Obviously, the President’s policy is based on the Taiwan Relations Act. That will continue. As we get closer to the trip, I’m sure we’ll have more to preview. Go ahead.

Speaker 14: (39:37)
Thanks, Jen. One question on [inaudible 00:39:39] COVID, do you have any update, any insight on the explosions in Transnistria earlier in the week?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (39:49)

Speaker 14: (39:49)
If the Russians were to open a new front in Moldova territory, would that trigger any new consequences for Russia?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (39:58)
On the first part, I just don’t have new confirmation or new details to read out from here. We’re still continuing to look at the explosions from earlier this week. I’m just not going to get ahead of a hypothetical at this point in time in terms of what consequences there would be.

Speaker 14: (40:13)
Yesterday, you were talking about how there’s great access to Paxlovid in the country. You’re trying to get the word out on its effectiveness. One of the main issues with Paxlovid is that an individual who’s eligible has to test positive, and then they have to race to get it within three days even though they’re quarantining. Is there any conversation within the administration to change that for an eligible individual to be able to get it preemptively?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (40:41)
I think that would be decision likely made by our health and medical experts. So I just don’t have anything to preview at this point in time. It requires a prescription, but there are a range of ways to have those conversations with your doctor. So I’m not sure it always involves a race to the doctor’s office, but different doctors can have virtual appointments and other means of getting prescriptions. It’s about consulting to ensure you’re eligible.

Male: (41:03)

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (41:03)

Speaker 15: (41:03)
Thank you, Jen. So I have a question on Ukraine, and then a follow up on my colleagues’ questions. Zelensky’s top advisor tweeted today that Ukraine should decide whether to strike Russian military facilities. I know you’ve spoken on this before, but you’re trying to avoid a hypothetical situation. But this seems like it’s getting closer towards a non-hypothetical situation. Can you at least outline-

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (41:28)
I appreciated that. Okay, go ahead.

Speaker 15: (41:29)
… whether the administration believes that this is escalatory or could be constructed?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (41:34)
Well, one, I think it’s important to take a step back and remember what we’re talking about here. I mean it is Russia that started this war, invaded Ukraine and violated Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity. It’s Russian forces that have committed war crimes and horrifying atrocities. It’s Russia that continues to attack Ukrainian targets in Ukraine every day.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (41:55)
So even if we are, dare I say, getting into a hypothetical, what we’re talking about here is not any intention of Ukraine invading Russia and trying to take Russian territory, going after Russian civilians, going after Russian hospitals. We’re talking about consideration of military targets. It’s something very different. So I just think that’s important context for everybody to consider.

Speaker 15: (42:18)
Still on Ukraine, there’s no formal announcement as of right now about Jakarta inviting Zelensky to G20. But our sources suggest that they are indeed inviting both Zelensky as well as Putin. So under those circumstances, would the President consider attending? I know it’s still six months away, but under those certain circumstances, [inaudible 00:42:40].

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (42:40)
Well, we certainly welcomed reports about Ukraine’s invitation. Obviously, we can’t confirm that on behalf of Indonesia, who is hosting. The President has been clear about his view this shouldn’t be business as usual and that Russia should not be a part of this. But, again, it’s six months away. We don’t even have confirmation of these reports. So I’m certainly not going to get into a hypothetical in this case. Yeah?

Speaker 15: (43:01)
To follow up on the issue about Americans being concerned about the amount of money being sent out to Ukraine, one of the things that the President outlined today in his speech was not just humanitarian assistance, but also allow pensions and social support to be paid to the Ukrainian people. So what would you say to the American public who says, okay, it’s one thing to help Ukrainian refugees with food and shelter, but why should we be paying for their pensions?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (43:25)
Well, look, I would say that we have provided a range of economic assistance because we know that their economy has been devastated, not of their doing, because they were invaded by a foreign country. They’re going-

Female: (43:38)
[crosstalk 00:43:38].

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (43:38)
Let me finish. They are going to need assistance in order to recover. We provide assistance, economic and humanitarian assistance, to a range of countries around the world, because that’s part of American leadership. And so, I would say that’s the reasoning for this assistance being proposed in the package.

Speaker 15: (43:56)
Thank you, Jen.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (43:56)
Go ahead.

April: (43:57)
Jen, on menthol, going back to the opposition in the Black community. I talked to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson today and she said she’s opposing it. She says the President should not only deal with menthol, but ban all instead of just menthol. She feels that it will cause a profiling issue. She also says this is something that should not be dealt with in the midterms because it will split the Black community. What do you say to that? Are you talking to Frederica Wilson, Al Sharpton, Ben Crump, and others about this very issue?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (44:31)
Well, let me try to answer all your questions there. I’m sure you’ll let me know if I don’t, April, of course. This is a public health decision made by the FDA. The objective of it was not to address politics or handle politics in one way or another, but to save lives.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (44:49)
The studies estimate that with menthol cigarettes, if they’re no longer available, it could prevent over 650,000 deaths, including 238, 000 African Americans. There are also high rates of use by children and young adults. Menthol also increases the appeal of cigarettes. It makes them easier to use, especially for kids. What we have seen, as you know, is decades of targeted marketing activities at the African American community to promote further purchasing in many ways and for many addiction to these cigarettes.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (45:27)
So this is not. But what I think is important for everybody to know and understand, including opponents, is this is not targeting individuals. This is not to give anybody license to arrest somebody who is smoking a cigarette, a menthol cigarette. This is going after the manufacturers of this. It is going after those who are selling, because we have seen decades of marketing, targeted activities, at exactly these communities.

April: (45:53)
So with that said, as you say, decades, I mean there’s been efforts to stop the targeting through billboards in urban communities in the ’90s and on and on. This is decades-old. But why now? There’s been progression, but why now instead of other issues?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (46:09)
Well, I think, again, this is a public health decision that went through a public health process. It wasn’t made through a political prism or made for any other reason than the lives that it could save. Go ahead.

Speaker 16: (46:20)
Thank you, Jen. At least seven sailors have died by suicide since the USS George Washington began undergoing a shipyard overhaul. There have been three just within the last month. The Navy today confirmed three from prior years. Is the President aware of these suicides? Does he have any response to them? Is the military doing enough to make sure that it is promoting the mental wellbeing of our service members?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (46:48)
Well, certainly the President is regularly briefed and is aware. The service of men and women and the stress and the pressure on them is something that is on his mind, including making sure we have the right mental healthcare, the right treatments for any individual who may be suffering from depression or anything that might lead to suicide. In terms of an assessment of what the steps they’re taking or what they’re doing, I’d really point you to the Department of Defense who would be better versed to speak to the specifics.

Speaker 16: (47:18)
Then to follow up on a question from yesterday about Ukraine and tariffs, the President could today, if he wanted to, by executive action, undo these Trump era tariffs on steel imports from Ukraine. Is there any reason why he wouldn’t do that? Does it have anything to do with pushback from unions?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (47:36)
There’s an ongoing consideration and process of reviewing a range of steps we can take to provide relief to the Ukrainians, a review of tariffs, but there’s a range of factors, and I just don’t have anything to preview in that process at this point in time.

Speaker 16: (47:49)
That is something that he is considering.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (47:52)
There’s a range of options on the table.

Male: (47:54)
Question, Jen.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (47:54)
Go ahead in the back.

Speaker 17: (47:55)
Thanks, Jen. I wanted to ask, the House is out next week. Usually that would be where an appropriations bill would start. Given that the President is saying the COVID funding is so urgent, in addition to the Ukraine proposal, how do you see this playing out legislatively in the quick that you need it to do?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (48:13)
Well, this is something now that we’ve put the proposal forward and put it forward and sent it up to the hill, a lot of the work is happening behind the scenes, engagement with our legislative teams, Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell, on this team with leaders on the House side, the Senate side to move it forward as quickly as possible. But in terms of the legislative mechanics, I’d really point you to leaders on the Hill for specifics on that.

Speaker 17: (48:34)
One other question on COVID funding, the Biden administration has been … I don’t know if reticent is the right word, to release spending that you’ve done on COVID tests, the rapid testing program, whether it’s how much you spent per test or overall. Is that information that you’re planning to make public or planning to provide to the Senate and the House as they consider whether to provide more funding?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (48:55)
The testing program in terms of people being able to order free tests?

Speaker 17: (49:00)
Yeah, the COVID test [inaudible 00:49:01].

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (49:01)
What specifically do you think we haven’t provided?

Speaker 17: (49:03)
The amounts that you’ve spent per test or overall per contract?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (49:08)
I’m sure if members of Congress or committees are interested in information, we’ll have those discussions with them directly. Go ahead.

Speaker 18: (49:14)
Thanks, Jen. Two questions. My first question is about the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands. Do you have any concerns that China is taking advantage of what’s going on in the Pacific, because the US is so focused on Ukraine and Russia?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (49:32)
I know we have spoken to this a little bit in the past and expressed some concern at the time. I’ll have to talk to our national security team and see if we have any updates on recent developments.

Speaker 18: (49:45)
I just have one more question about, sorry, President Biden’s trip to Asia. Could you confirm reports by some Asian media outlets that are saying that President Biden is going to announce some kind of China strategy during his trip to Korea and Japan?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (49:58)
Again, this trip is weeks away, which is a lifetime for us. So we’re not quite there yet on previewing specifics of the trip and what it will entail. I’ll do the last one, then I got to wrap it up.

Male: (50:09)
[inaudible 00:50:09], Jen, President Biden, why does he believe [crosstalk 00:50:10].

Speaker 19: (50:09)
Jen, thank you. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found that the city of Minneapolis and the MPD engaged in a pattern of practice of racial discrimination. They’re working on [inaudible 00:50:21], but we know that can take some time. Is there anything that the President can do moving forward is … Can we say that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act seems like it’s shelved for now? Has the President seen that report? What’s his reaction?

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: (50:34)
I don’t have any direct reaction from the President to that report. I can certainly check with him on that. We’re still continuing to consider a police reform executive order, as you know. That consideration is underway, it continues to be underway, and the President has every intention of signing one. Of course, we would of course still love to have bipartisan legislation passed through Congress. We know the anniversary is coming up in just a few weeks. Certainly, that’s something that remains on the President’s mind. Thank you, everyone, so much.

Female: (51:03)
Thanks, Jen.

Male: (51:06)
[crosstalk 00:51:06] Americans should pay for abortion referrals. [inaudible 00:51:08] the President?

Female: (51:09)
[crosstalk 00:51:09] at this time.

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