May 1, 2022
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki 4/29/22 Transcript
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki 4/29/22. Read the transcript here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
Couple items for you at the top. President Biden is committed to doing everything he can to address… Some sticky seats over there… To address the pain Americans are feeling at the pump as a result of President Putin’s price hike, and his unjustified war’s impact on global fuel supply. Today, the EPA announced that it is issuing an emergency fuel waiver to allow E15 sales during the summer driving season. This, of course, is a follow up to what the President announced in Iowa just two weeks ago. The waiver is a critical step to address the fuel supply crisis, and again, as I already noted, it’s a follow to the announcement from last week and it will lay out actions to increase the use of biofuels in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, accelerate the clean energy transition, build, drill US energy independence, support American agriculture and manufacturing, and save Americans money.
Jen Psaki: (00:54)
At current prices, E15 can save a family 10 cents per gallon of gas on average, and many stores sell E15, an even greater discount. There’s just over 2000 gas stations, mostly in the Midwest, where without this action, the E15 tank pump would be covered and Americans wouldn’t be able to access it. So this builds on the additional steps the President has taken authorizing the release of 1 million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the next six months, and the largest release in history, and building a coalition around the world to release an additional 60 million barrels.
Jen Psaki: (01:31)
I also wanted to give you a little bit of a week ahead, a quick overview for the week ahead. As you’re well aware tomorrow, the President and the First Lady will attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where the President will speak, and I will lower expectations and say it’s not funny at all. I’m just kidding, see?
Jen Psaki: (01:52)
The following day, President Biden will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend the memorial service of former vice President, Walter Mondale, who was his friend and mentor. On Monday, the President will present the Presidential Rank Awards to 230 winners for 37 federal agencies in a virtual ceremony. Then he and the First Lady will host a reception to celebrate Eid in the Easter room.
Jen Psaki: (02:16)
On Tuesday, the President will travel to Alabama, as we’ve already announced, to visit a Lockheed Martin facility, which manufactures weapons them such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, which we are providing Ukraine to defend against the Russian invasion. He will also discuss, while he’s there, his supplemental funding request, which will help Ukraine defend itself over the long term, support democracy in Ukraine, and address humanitarian needs and economic disruptions due to Putin’s war. And on Thursday, the President and First Lady will host a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden. Also wanted to note, Gary Rosenberg… Where are you, Gary? Hello, Gary. He’s one of the ABC crew members here at the White House. He is retiring today after 43 years.
Jen Psaki: (03:00)
Great, Gary, so amazing. Thank you for your service. We’re not going to make any connection between your timing and the fact that ABC is reportedly taking Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson to the dinner. Maybe you’ll have a wild weekend.
Jen Psaki: (03:21)
Okay. So let’s get to your questions. I have hopefully a lot of follow ups to a lot of these supplemental questions you all had yesterday, which I’m sure will come up. So why don’t we get to you, Chris?
I was going to start with supplemental, actually.
Jen Psaki: (03:33)
So just wanted looking for update on where things stand with that, and also with Covid funding, how the conversation’s gone so far, and how are things going, Republican as well, in getting their support for some of these measures.
Jen Psaki: (03:45)
Sure. Well, as I noted yesterday, after we put out and announced this request, we have been working full steam ahead in engaging and having discussions with appropriate members, committees, staff, about the urgency in moving both of these requests forward. The President of course, put them forward, because together, and that is his preference, for them to move together because they’re both essential. There’s urgency to moving them both forward. If I may, and this may come up as well, but can I give you just a bit of a rundown? This is to Alex’s questions yesterday, of what has been spent from the $13.5. Let me just see if I can find this here. Okay. So we noted and we’ve confirmed for all of you that of the $13.6, we had already spent $3.25 of the security assistance, with $250 million left. That remains the case.
Jen Psaki: (04:42)
The first supplemental also provided roughly $6 billion in direct security and direct… I mean, that includes, the $6 billion includes that $3.5 as well as economic assistance, all of that in there. So 95% of that has been exhausted. And that means that of course, the $ 250 million is part of the 5% left, and also some economic assistance that has not yet been spent from that tranche. The first supplemental also provided about $4.2 billion for humanitarian assistance, for humanitarian needs globally. We’ve spent about $600 million of that so far. So there’s more obviously left in that fund, which why we have only requested less than 3% of what is in our new request package, is for that type of humanitarian assistance, because we have more left and there are more global requests, of course, given the surge of refugees and needs around the world that we anticipate receiving.
Jen Psaki: (05:36)
And finally, the supplemental also provided $3 billion to support US troop deployments, to reinforce NATO territory, which the Department of Defense is using for this purpose. Of course, they plan ahead, it doesn’t mean it’s all been spent out, but it has been planned for how it will be spent. So as you can tell, the vast majority of what we had requested and what we had received from Congress has been spent, and the humanitarian pieces still left accounts for how we have framed the next package. Okay, go ahead.
Speaker 1: (06:06)
It appears the European Union is preparing a phase in ban of Russian oil imports. The US has been a partner in helping the EU to get natural gas. Is the US committed to helping them get additional crude supplies, and will that include ways to increase US production and get it over to the European Union?
Jen Psaki: (06:24)
Yes. So as we’ve talked about a little bit this week with the announcement about Russia’s actions as it relates to Poland and Bulgaria, we started a task force last month with Europe to account for and plan for and work to help them diversify their energy needs and account for any steps that Russia may continue to take to weaponize energy. There was a meeting of that task force, I believe it was yesterday, to have a discussion about how we can continue to work together. We’ve already taken steps to provide for additional LNG, or natural gas resources, because we knew and anticipated that for some of these European countries, that was especially going to be a need.
Jen Psaki: (07:05)
In terms of oil, it’s of course a global oil market, so our effort there in anticipation of any needs was to take steps to provide more supply, whether that was through our own release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve or the work that the President and his team has done to do the global release, the biggest ever in history. So slightly two different things, but this task force was started in anticipation of these needs. They already had a meeting. We’ll continue our work together to help the Europeans with any shortages they have, and also to diversify and ease off of reliance on Russian energy needs.
Speaker 1: (07:41)
On the E15 emergency waiver, it says it’ll last a statutory maximum of 20 days per the EPA, and that you guys will review that to see if it’s still needed. The industry itself has been calling for, and I think Biden has been supportive of a summer-long lifting thing of the ban. I understand there’s reasons why you do the 20 days, but is this administration committed to making E15 available all summer long?
Jen Psaki: (08:07)
That is how the President made his announcement, and is his intention. And I would note, because it’s available, if you think of the just over 2000 gas stations where it’s available in the Midwest, largely in the Midwest. Without this, the prior regulations would’ve been… Or without the waiver, that basically the E15 pump would be covered and wouldn’t be available. So we do anticipate needs continuing for taking additional steps to cut the cost for Americans. This lowers it by about 10 cents for those who use this type of gas. And this is just another way to do that. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (08:44)
Vladimir Putin has confirmed that Russia will be attending the G-20 summit. So could we get a reaction from the White House on that? And then related to that, is there any scenario, anything that could happen between now and six months from now where the US would actually welcome Russia’s presence at the G-20, see it as being constructive or productive for Russia to be a part of that summit?
Jen Psaki: (09:09)
Well, there’s a lot that could happen between now and then, but we certainly haven’t seen an indication to date of Russia’s plan to participate in diplomatic talks constructively. Our hope certainly is that will change, because obviously diplomatic talks and conversations is the way to bring an end to this conflict, and President Putin could end this tomorrow, could end this right now, but I’m not going to get ahead of what that looks like. Obviously, this is an ongoing war on the ground.
Jen Psaki: (09:36)
We have certainly seen those reports, and the President has expressed publicly his opposition to President Putin attending the G-20. We have welcomed the Ukrainians attending, or invitation to attend the G-20. It is six months away, so we don’t know how to predict, we can’t predict that this point what that will look like. Our understanding, and of course you could confirm this with the Indonesians, is we have reached out to them privately, is that they did invite them before the invasion, so any additional steps beyond that, I would certainly point to them, but we’ve conveyed our view that we don’t think they should be a part of it publicly, and privately as well.
Speaker 2: (10:11)
Just on that separate matter. An American citizen and former Marine veteran, Willy Joseph Cancel was killed this week in Ukraine while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. His mother told CNN that he went to Ukraine because he believes in what Ukraine was fighting for. First of all, is there a message for his family?
Jen Psaki: (10:31)
Well, first of all, our hearts go out to his family and loved ones. We don’t have official confirmation, even though we’ve seen the reports, but we have not had that official process through the government, so I can’t speak to other specifics about him beyond that. But we know Americans are looking for ways to help, and the reports about this individual were that he’s a veteran. He had a child, I believe, and certainly sounded like a very passionate young man. We know people want to help, but we do encourage Americans to find other ways to do so, rather than traveling to Ukraine to fight there. It is a war zone. It’s an active war zone, and we know Americans face significant risks, but certainly we know a family is mourning, a wife is mourning, and our hearts are with them.
Speaker 2: (11:26)
So any other American that is looking to go to Ukraine for the purpose of fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, the US’ message is strictly, do not go.
Jen Psaki: (11:36)
Our advice for four months now has been that Americans should not travel to Ukraine for any reason.
Speaker 3: (11:44)
In the President’s conversation with AMLO, with the Mexican president just ended, did President Biden make any specific requests of his Mexican counterpart in terms of increasing Mexican either troops or enforcement along either the US-Mexico-
Oops or enforcement along either the US, Mexico border or the Mexico border with Central American countries.
Jen Psaki: (12:08)
Well, what the focus, I have not received an extensive readout yet. I know you’ll receive one probably while I’m up here, but the majority of the conversation was about migration and was about continued work on coordination, on economic coordination, on taking steps to reduce migration to the border. And they have been a partner in that over the last several months in terms of specific asks. I just don’t have more on that, but I know Mike, that one of the follow ups here will be coordination and discussion at a high level from members of the respective national security teams to continue to work together as we head toward the important meetings coming up in a few weeks.
Yeah, I mean, I think just as a quick follow up, I understand that that just ended and so maybe you don’t have the information now.
Jen Psaki: (12:55)
If there’s a way to get more information about the specific question of whether or not the United States has as you’ll remember, President Trump pushed the Mexican Government to try to increase enforcement along the border by threatening tariffs. Obviously that’s a different strategy than-
Jen Psaki: (13:11)
It’s not our approach.
Probably isn’t your approach, but it wouldn’t be out of the question to imagine that this government would encourage pressure, ask the Mexican Government to do more, especially on the eve of Title 42 potentially coming down [crosstalk 00:13:28]
Jen Psaki: (13:28)
Well, I think it’s important to remember. I mean, the tone of the call was very constructive. This was not a call where President Biden was threatening the Mexican President in any way. They have been an important partner. We expect them to continue to be, and this call was planned in part because of the Summit of the Americas, but also because of the approaching lifting of Title 42 and the anticipation and expectation from the Department of Homeland Security of the increased influx of migrants, trying to come to cross the border. So, but it was meant to be a constructive call. It was not meant to deliver a threatening message. That is my understanding of what took place. And certainly if there’s more to provide, we will provide that to all of you. Go ahead.
Thank you, Jen. On the supplemental budget, the administration believes the package will support Ukraine for five months. Is there anything you could tell us about that timeframe? Is that when the administration believes the war will come to an end, or that it will last for at least another five months?
Jen Psaki: (14:26)
Well, let me give you a little bit of more of a rundown of each of the components in the package too. I know some of this was done yesterday, but I think more of it… We could do more from our end on this front, but to answer your direct question, Weijia, that’s the end of the fiscal year and what our objective here was, was to provide a long enough set of funding requests or a funding request that would mean we wouldn’t have to come back in a month or six weeks, right. To ensure that there was planning that was possible through the US Military and through our European partners and the Ukrainians as well.
Jen Psaki: (15:03)
Now, some of this funding, for example, the 6 billion of this $20 billion of the security assistance component is for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is basically direct supports for Ukraine to purchase its own weapons from the defense industry here in the United States. They could not even intake billions and billions and billions of weapons and security assistance in this moment. So that is likely going to be longer term because if they place an order for specific weapons, sometimes that takes months to produce. It’s just meant to provide security assistance so they can plan for what they need over the long term and make those orders directly, which is what that portion of the funding provides for. The other portions of the funding, so 5.4 billion, is in draw down. So that as you’re very familiar with that, because that was a large chunk of what we requested and have implemented in our last package. And that basically allows the United States to, when we provide weapons or give weapons to the Ukrainians, to have the funding to backfill those needs and order those weapons so we can backfill them here and make sure we have what we need here in the United States.
Jen Psaki: (16:19)
2.4 billion was to purchase high demand weapons for the United States, build additional critical war reserves and increase intelligence and other defense support. And then 4 billion is in State Foreign Military Financing, which is not just for Ukraine. That’s for a range of countries. It’s FMF funding that will be applicable to a range of countries and what their needs are. And finally, 2.6 billion is to continue supporting US troop deployments in NATO territory. So as you know, we had about 80,000 and now we’re up to 100,000 and we’re also of course providing support to a range of our NATO allies and partners in the region. And that helps support that, includes US troop transportation, special pay, medical support. So that’s kind of the breakdown of what it is, but some of that would certainly go beyond. It was just meant to be a request that accounts for the fiscal year.
And then turning to COVID, I know you’ve talked before about protocols in place to protect the President, but given what Kate Bedingfield tweeted this morning, I wonder, is part of the protocol to make sure the President never has any close contacts?
Jen Psaki: (17:27)
Well, the way we determine, we do take additional steps. And some of those are additional precautions that go beyond even what the CDC recommends, right? So if we are in a meeting with the President, I’ve noted before, you always are tested. We often wear masks, almost always wear masks in those meetings. We try to socially distance whenever possible, and the way the CDC defines the close contact is 15 minutes at a certain close proximity. So we try to follow those guidelines and take additional steps, of course, out of an effort to protect the President.
So, those who are in a confined space with the President wear masks and are six feet apart from him?
Jen Psaki: (18:08)
That’s an effort we make. Exactly.
Okay, great. And then just quickly on the vaccines for children.
Jen Psaki: (18:13)
Because the FDA announced a couple potential dates for when they might start reviewing in June.
Jen Psaki: (18:18)
When the green light is given, assuming it will be, is there enough supply already on hand to start giving these young children their first doses right away? The supply of both the vaccine and vials materials, et cetera.
Jen Psaki: (18:36)
My understanding, Weijia, is that there is. I will quadruple check that and make sure for you. But we have been planning for the possibility of approval for vaccines for children under five for some time now. And we like to plan ahead.
Okay, thanks, Jen.
Jen Psaki: (18:51)
Go ahead, Jackie.
Thank you, Jen. The mayor of Eagle Pass told my colleague down at the border today, and Mayor is a Democrat by the way, that the border is not being effectively managed and asked the President to come and see it. Does the President have any plans to go to the border?
Jen Psaki: (19:08)
I don’t have any plans to preview at this point in time. Certainly we’re open to it, but no plans to preview.
Is it something he would consider doing before the Summit of the Americas, where he’s set to meet with the leaders of Central and South America, see this situation firsthand before having that robust conversation?
Jen Psaki: (19:23)
Well, he’s meeting with leaders of countries that he’s traveled to many times and certainly is very familiar with the issues that will be discussed, which is addressing root causes, coordinating, whether it’s on the economic front or security front. And that’s an initiative he led when he was Vice President. So he’s very familiar with those issues.
On the economy, Austin Goolsbee, the former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under the Obama Administration said that he felt that the President yesterday, in his comments about the GDP report, was potentially underplaying the risks of a recession. And he pointed to geopolitical conditions with Ukraine, with Russia, cutting off gas to Europe, and also GDP shrinking saying that people should be nervous. How do you respond to that?
Jen Psaki: (20:09)
Well, I have a great deal of respect for Austin Goolsbee, he’s a former colleague, and so does the President. But what we look at is a range of economic data, including economic data that was in the GDP numbers yesterday, which I did some explaining of yesterday, but some of the data that was in there, show very encouraging signs that economists look at many independent economists monitor closely, American consumer spending, business investment, residential investment, all up. The decrease as it relates to exports is largely because our economy is stronger than many economies around the world, and the inventory numbers, which is kind of the number that went down, that brought it down is in large part because the fourth quarter inventory numbers were the highest in history. And these numbers are done as a comparison from quarter to quarter.
Jen Psaki: (21:01)
So I think we felt it was important to explain the data and what it means. We continue to monitor economic data. It’s important to note that some important components of it are, we created more jobs last year, than any job in American history. We’re at a low, a very low unemployment rate. And while costs are high and inflation is not where we want it to be, the Federal Reserve continues to project that will come down by the end of the year. So our economist and our economic team continues to feel confident in the strength of the economy, even as we monitor a range of data.
Jennifer Granholm said something though, that was interesting about inflation coming down. She said, some economists are suggesting inflation’s going to level off a bit, but it’s just so hard to know, because we don’t know what’s going to happen on the war on this. So she’s seeming to also allude to geopolitical conditions that might not result these projections coming to fruition.
Jen Psaki: (21:58)
Well, the Federal Reserve makes the official projections, right, for the government. What I will note, and I think maybe she was referring to, is even the new economic data we saw today. Energy accounted for 61% of the reasoning for the increase in the inflation numbers. And we know of that because of Putin’s unprovoked invasion in Ukraine, that it’s driving food costs, but also energy costs. And that is a huge driver. So that’s why the President is taking a range of steps, the historic release from the strategic petroleum reserve, even the steps, certainly smaller as it relates to E15 today, to work to really target and focus on and energy prices and costs.
And I have just a couple questions on the disinformation board.
Jen Psaki: (22:40)
Yesterday, you had told me that you were not familiar with Nina Jankowicz. I’m wondering if you have more information on her today. Also, Secretary Merrick has said that he was not familiar with statements that she had made surrounding the Hunter Biden laptop. And I’m just wondering, how was she hired if you in the White House are not familiar with her, if Mayorkas is not familiar with her statements, what’s the process for putting her into a position like this who’s in charge of her hire?
Jen Psaki: (23:06)
Well, let me give you a sense of who she is. She’s an expert on online disinformation. She was formally in the Wilson Center’s disinformation… She was formally a disinformation fellow at the Wilson center. She’s testified before Congress, as well as the United Kingdom and European Parliament, advised a Ukrainian Foreign Minister, particularly relevant in this moment, under the auspices of a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship and overseeing Russia and Belarus programs at the National Democratic Institute. Any hiring decisions are up to the Department of Homeland Security, but this is a person with extensive qualifications. What I will tell you about the board and what the board is doing, this is a continuation of work that began at the Department of Homeland Security in 2020, under former President Trump.
Is it though… I guess, can you describe what her job is going to be? Because there’s been some Tik Toks that she has put out and it seems like rather than calling balls and strikes on this story is-
Other than calling balls and strikes on this story is false, and here’s the truth on it, one line stood out to me. They’re laundering disinfo, we should really take note and not support their lives with our wallet, voice or vote. [crosstalk 00:24:16].
Jen Psaki: (24:15)
Here’s what the board is going to do, which I think is of particular interest, again, a continuation and of the work of the former president. So for anyone who’s critical of it, I don’t, I didn’t hear them being critical of the work under the former president, which is just interesting to note contextually. But in the fact sheet that they put out yesterday, what they noted in there is that this is meant to, one, the first bullet was about protecting privacy, civil rights and civil liberties, and the First Amendment, they said the primary mission is to establish best practices to ensure that efforts to understand and respond to disinformation are done in ways that protect privacy, civil rights and civil liberties.
Jen Psaki: (24:55)
I’d also note that the first example they gave about what they’re going to do is support the Department of Homeland Security’s work, ongoing work, back to the former administration, to address how and understand how misinformation spread by human smugglers, that prey on vulnerable populations attempting to migrate to the United States. There’s no question, everybody, bipartisan support for that, to address disinformation, that’s helping smugglers, pushing, helping people migrate or providing false information, prompting people to migrate. And this is also work that is helping to address unauthorized terrorism, other threats, and see how disinformation and misinformation is being pushed to lead to increase those. So that’s all work, we think it’s work that’s been ongoing for some time. This is the form it’s taking. And there’s a fact sheet that details the specifics of it.
You just outlined a lot of efforts that sound very worthy, but you’ve got someone from the Department of Homeland Security telling people how they should vote. How do you explain that to critics who say, “That doesn’t sound right to me”?
Jen Psaki: (26:08)
This is an individual who will be overseeing the work of that board. Personnel decisions are up to the Department of Homeland Security. I just outlined the extensive history and background this individual has, but I think what’s important to note here is what the board is doing, which is continuing what is important, disinformation related work, that began under the former administration. Go ahead.
Kristen Welker: (26:29)
Jen, I want to ask you about some of the concerns that Democrats are expressing about Title 42, if it is in fact lifted. And these are some quotes that were in Politico today, Maggie Hassan said, “What I didn’t hear was specifics out numbers and deployment, and really needing the need at the border.” Senator Catherine Cortez Masto said she still hasn’t seen the comprehensive plans. And Senator Mark Kelly has said there’s having things on a piece of paper and then what is going on in the Southern border. And there’s a huge disconnect. What is the administration doing to address those concerns, and that criticism that there may be a plan on paper, but they certainly haven’t seen it at the border yet?
Jen Psaki: (27:12)
Well, first there’s an extensive plan on paper, that includes a six-pillar approach to planning for and preparing for the lifting of Title 42, including surging resources, personnel, transportation, medical support, facilities to support border operations. It also includes enhancing CBP processing efficiency and moving with deliberate speed to mitigate potential overcrowding at border patrol stations, something in anticipation they are preparing for, or the possibility of. It also includes administering consequences for unlawful entry. That’s pillar three, includes number four is bolstering the capacity of non-governmental organizations, who have been important partners to us as we’re working to implement, to receive non-citizens after they’ve been processed. It also includes targeting and disrupting the transnational criminal organizations, and finally deterring a regular migration. What it is not, and this is where we absolutely of course agree with these members and others, is an immigration reform plan. And that is something that we strongly support. This is a reminder of the need for, how outdated it is, how broken the system is, but Title 42 has never been an immigration plan.
Kristen Welker: (28:16)
How soon will the plan that you just laid out actually go into effect, understanding that it may take some time?
Jen Psaki: (28:23)
Kristen Welker: (28:24)
But how soon will people actually feel the real impact, so that, as Senator Kelly is saying, this disconnect doesn’t exist, so that there’s actual proof that it’s taking place?
Jen Psaki: (28:33)
Well, the Title 42 lifts on May 23rd, it doesn’t lift-
Kristen Welker: (28:38)
Nothing happens until-
Jen Psaki: (28:38)
I would point to the Department of Homeland Security for the implementation plan. But I think that’s what’s important to note here. We haven’t seen the impacts of the lifting surges because it hasn’t happened yet. I’d also note that Secretary Mayorkas’ has testified, I believe, before four committees over the last two days about exactly this.
Kristen Welker: (28:57)
And yet there’s still this skepticism.
Jen Psaki: (28:57)
In order to answer their questions. And I’m sure he is happy to have continued conversations.
Kristen Welker: (29:04)
How concerned is the President that these members of his own party who are facing tough reelection battles, as you know, have these serious concerns, and clearly are expressing fears that it might impact them politically, might impact their chances for reelection?
Jen Psaki: (29:16)
Well, without speaking to the politics, I would say, Kristen, I mean, the President shares the concern about the lack of a workable immigration system. And that impacts many of the border state leaders quite a bit, of course, because there isn’t an effective asylum processing system, because we don’t have smart security. We spent years investing in a faulty border wall that was never going to be an effective mechanism. He shares their concerns about that, and he recognizes and agrees with that.
Kristen Welker: (29:49)
How would you characterize how committed he is, understanding that an appeal, if it comes to that, is not in his hands, would he want to see this fight go all the way to the Supreme court?
Jen Psaki: (29:58)
I’m certainly not going to get ahead of a legal process. I will note and, Mary, I think Mary [inaudible 00:30:04] asked about this yesterday. In terms of where things stand, so right now, what we saw yesterday is that the District Court presiding over one of the challenges to the Title 42 rescission order, officially entered, finally officially entered, because they’d just done it verbally, a temporary restraining order. What that basically means is they’re saying we can’t lift Title 42 before May 23rd. That has not been our plan to date, as you know. What is next is there’s going to be a hearing on Arizona’s preliminary injunction motion, that’s scheduled to take place on May 13th. So any decision about what’s next of course, would happen from the Department of Justice, but wouldn’t happen until after that. What I would note is that the judge has indicated he will rule unfavorably towards the administration at this time, but we don’t know, and we don’t officially know, and we won’t know until he makes a ruling and then Department of Justice would make any decision about legal action.
Kristen Welker: (30:56)
One quickly on the supplemental, if I might. There’s obviously a divide over whether to link it to COVID funding, which we talked about a little bit here yesterday. But given that there is this divide, and given the urgency that we are hearing from President Zelenskyy and others on the ground in Ukraine for this aid, why not just say, “Let’s delink these two bills and move forward with Ukraine aid and get it done as quickly as possible”?
Jen Psaki: (31:21)
Well, Kristen, I would note that the President feels that both are urgent, both are emergencies. Of course, we know there’s an urgency in getting additional assistance, we know we have a few more weeks depending on how the final military draw down is spent out. But on terms of COVID, what we are doing right now is we are preventing the United States from being able to plan and purchase ahead. So for example, if there’s a better booster, which there may be, because science is amazing one day. If there’s a better vaccine, we can’t make purchases ahead of doing that. That is what we have done to date, that is why we have been so prepared. It also makes it so that we can’t purchase EvoShield, treatments that helps immunocompromised, we can’t make additional purchases of a range of the treatments we know are effective and make sure that we can say to every American, “We’ll get you a mask, we’ll get you a test, we’ll get you a free vaccine.” So the President feels that is also incredibly urgent. [crosstalk 00:32:16].
Speaker 4: (32:15)
Do you have a reaction to the report, that the FBI last year potentially searched millions of Americans’ data? And secondly, is the President briefed on that? Does he have any reaction himself?
Jen Psaki: (32:25)
I have not spoken with the President about this. I can get you more details about this after the briefing. My understanding is that some of this was about researching and doing an investigation into potential hacking. But I will get you more from the FBI after this. Thanks for the question. [crosstalk 00:32:43]. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (32:45)
Yeah. E15 fuel is slightly less energy dense than what we would consider capable gasoline, so Americans might need to fill up just a little bit more frequently. So how much does the administration really think that this move will affect Americans’ wallets? And does the White House believe the President has exhausted his authority on what he can do related to gas prices? Or are there more options still being considered?
Jen Psaki: (33:09)
I mean, on the second question, we’re always going to look for more options. I mean, we had saw, and I talked about this a little bit earlier, even as it relates to the inflation data that came out today, we know that 61% of that is driven by energy cost, by Putin’s invasion into Ukraine. And we need to continue to take every step we can, whether that’s working with Congress, considering what authorities we have, continuing to ensure we take steps to make sure the supply meets the demands out there. The estimates have been, it saves Americans about 10 cents a gallon. And you know that, to the President and to us, felt like a reason to do it. And because without taking this step for the waiver, it basically would just be an option of additional supply, that is a little bit less expensive that wouldn’t be available in these 2,000 gas stations. We’re not saying that this is the silver bullet. It’s not, it’s just a step that we felt would help ease the burden for Americans who go to those gas stations.
Speaker 5: (34:10)
Sure. And then with COVID, as we are talking about, as the White House is pushing Congress to pass for more funding, what hasn’t the administration released a plan at least for now, to transition the burden of paying for COVID drugs and vaccines to the private sector, kind of like has been done with tests so that insurance companies have time to negotiate?
Jen Psaki: (34:32)
Well, there’s a range of steps happening at the same time, but I will you that what we want to continue to be able to do is to provide these treatments for free. That’s the objective, that’s the reason for this request for funding, but also the request for funding is enabling the United States to be able to purchase ahead in bulk supply, a lot of these treatments, or vaccines so that we can make, when they are ready, we can make those available to treatment centers and hospitals around the country. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (35:05)
Okay, thanks. I know you said that you didn’t get an extensive readout yet of the conversation with the Mexican President-
Jen Psaki: (35:11)
And there’ll be a written readout at some point, if not yet.
Speaker 6: (35:14)
To the extent that you know what happened, did the President make headway in getting Mexico to take a harder line on Russia, and should we expect them to join the global coalition in imposing sanctions now?
Jen Psaki: (35:26)
Well, I would note, obviously the Mexican government can speak for themself on any intentions they may or may not have. They have spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, so I would note that. We will always encourage any leaders to take additional steps to support the Ukrainians and stand up in a range of ways against the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. But in terms of any steps they would take, regardless of the conversation, we would let them speak for themselves on that. [inaudible 00:35:56], go ahead.
Speaker 6: (35:56)
Oh, sorry. As has the reticence by the Mexican government impacted the US-Mexico relationship in any way, when it comes to sanctions?
Speaker 6: (36:03)
Did the US-Mexico relationship in any way when it comes to sanctions?
Jen Psaki: (36:04)
Well, again, I would note they have spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We know different countries are going to take different steps. Some have taken them quickly, some took longer to take them, and we know different countries will have different approaches. So every step, whether it’s sanctions, assistance they can provide, we understand that. We have an important, strong relationship with Mexico, one that… The call today was set up in order to really focus the conversation on migration and addressing root causes in advance of the Summit of the Americas. That was really the majority of the conversation. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to miss you. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (36:38)
No worries. Thank you. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby was asked this afternoon if he believed that Vladimir Putin was a rational actor, and he responded saying, “I can’t talk to his psychology, but I think we can all speak to his depravity.” Now, he later apologized for his emotions there, but I’m curious, are these sentiments also shared by the president?
Jen Psaki: (36:58)
Well, I think you’ve heard the president call him a war criminal, so I don’t think the president thinks of President Putin as somebody who is a model in the world. He views him as a pariah and somebody who is guilty of war crimes and of genocide. So I think the president’s comments speak for itself.
Speaker 7: (37:17)
And then also piggybacking on Kristen’s last question, if Congress doesn’t pass supplement aid to Ukraine or it’s delayed, how much longer can we keep the current pace in supporting them?
Jen Psaki: (37:30)
Well, there’s a range of ways we’re supporting them, right? So this is why I felt it was important to outline in more detail than I did yesterday. Sometimes you go back and you say, “I need more information,” and that’s what we did here. But we know there’s 250 million left from the security package. We know that we were at a very rapid pace of providing assistance for several weeks. That was strategic, because we wanted to front load that, knowing that as Russia repositioned their approach to the war, the needs for the Ukrainians were different, because it was going to be a longer, more drawn-out war that was more kind of on the ground.
Jen Psaki: (38:08)
So we strategically front loaded a lot of the security assistance, but there is not… We expect a couple more weeks, this assistance could be. I don’t have the plans from the Department of Defense on exactly how they will roll that out. I also noted that the vast, vast majority of our economic assistance has also been exhausted. Obviously many of those needs are longterm. Some of the funding, about three billion of it, was for operating needs of the Department of Defense. Some of those are still being spent out and are part of their budget, not direct assistance, of course. And then there is still funds in the humanitarian assistance bucket, but that doesn’t meet all of the needs, of course, that the Ukrainians have. So this is why there’s an urgency to moving forward.
Speaker 7: (38:53)
And lastly, I understand that the circumstances surrounding Mr. Cancel’s death are still coming to light, but does the president have any plans to talk with his relatives?
Jen Psaki: (39:04)
It’s a great question. And what I tried to convey, perhaps not articulately, is that it has not gone through the proper channels, that typically are the State Department, Defense Department, et cetera, usually the State Department, likely in this case. And if there is a call to read out, I will certainly let all of you know. Go ahead. I can do a few more, I think. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (39:23)
All right. It sounds like the president is still planning to attend the White House correspondents dinner. In the past, when he’s been exposed in large events, the White House has noted that there might be an increase in his testing following those. Are there any plans to change the president’s testing procedures, following these big events that he’s been attending, like the dinner and the two memorial services he attended?
Jen Psaki: (39:45)
The testing protocol is determined by his doctor. He was tested yesterday and he tested negative, but I don’t have anything to predict in terms of the future. I noted this the other day, but I think that’s important for your question here, is that the president, we made a decision, it was important to him to attend the dinner to honor the work of journalists, all of you, many of your colleagues around the world, something the former president didn’t do. But we also took additional steps. He’s not attending the dinner portion, he’s coming for the program, and he will likely wear a mask when he’s not speaking. Obviously he’ll speak, and so he’ll be there about an hour or 90 minutes, I guess, depending on how long Trevor Noah speaks and others speak in the program. But we took that additional step as well. And then he’s of course sitting on the dais up in the front, so the interaction… He’s not attending any of the receptions or anything along those lines either.
Speaker 8: (40:37)
On the remarks, the president has been a guest on several late night shows. Has he consulted any of those host comedians, brought in any outside help on his speech? Can you kind of bring us in the room on how he’s approaching this as someone who has attended several of these dinners and seen them play?
Jen Psaki: (40:54)
He has. I would tell you, the president has a very good sense of humor and is working hard on his own speech.
Speaker 10: (40:59)
On the topic of… Thank you, Jen. The administration has not said how long they expect the war in Ukraine to last, and that’s understandable because no one knows what the future will hold. But the administration, and then also in this room yesterday, the administration has declined to say how much the United States is prepared to spend longterm or to give a real definition of what a victory in the war in Ukraine would look like. So my question is, how long does President Biden, the same president who got us out of Afghanistan because he said it was a costly and unwinnable quagmire, how long does he expect the American people to back this war, when they don’t know how long it will last, how much it will cost, or what the ultimate definition of victory actually is?
Jen Psaki: (41:48)
Well, I mean, let me just reiterate something the president has said from the beginning… I will get to your point. I will get to your questions, I promise. That combating Russian aggression has costs. Leaving it unchecked would be even more costly. Allowing Russia to run rampant around Europe, beyond Ukraine, which is what President Putin outlined in his speech right before he invaded, would be incredibly costly to the world and to the United States. We calculate that as well. Right now, I know… Let me… I will get there, I promise. I know you’re raising your hand. You asked me a few questions. I’m going to get there.
Jen Psaki: (42:24)
Right now, the importance of this package to the president is because every day, Ukrainians pay the price of freedom in their lives, and he feels providing them with arms and food is the right thing to do. And trying to plan for… And I noted that some components of this package are not limited. It’s not that the spending will end at five months. It’s just allowing the ability for us, the Ukrainians and the Europeans to plan over the long term. In fact, much of the security assistance will be much longer than that. The reason it’s difficult to define what winning is, is because obviously our view continues to be that an end will be through a diplomatic process and a diplomatic conversation. The Ukrainians are the ones to determine what the outcome of that will look like, not for us to determine on their behalf.
Speaker 10: (43:10)
So should we expect a line item appropriation for military aid to Ukraine for the next 5, 10, 15 years? I mean, is this open-ended?
Jen Psaki: (43:18)
We of course want the war to end as quickly as possible, and President Putin could do that tomorrow, but right now, what we’re making a decision about, what we’re advocating for, is trying to support and have the backs of an incredibly brave country and their people, who are kicked out of their homes, fighting an aggressive dictator and his military, lacking food, lacking economic assistance, and preventing Putin from rampaging through Europe, which by the way, would be much more expensive than what we’re talking about here.
Speaker 10: (43:51)
One quick follow up then. So the United States’ definition of what success or victory looks like in the region is contingent on how long the Ukrainians are willing to combat the Russians and whether or not they want to fight them and force them to the negotiation table or push them out of their borders. That’s up to them, but [crosstalk 00:44:11]-
Jen Psaki: (44:11)
Not exactly what I said. What I will say is that what President Putin defined as his own version of winning and victory from the beginning was taking over Ukraine, their sovereignty, their territorial integrity. Obviously he’s already failed at that, right? So in that sense, they are already defeating Putin’s effort to envelop them into Russia. But this is an ongoing war. We know that. We know that diplomacy and having a discussion and negotiation is the way to get an end to it. Our effort and our focus is on strengthening them at the negotiating table, and that’s the role that we feel that we can play. I’m going to have to wrap this up. [Osma 00:44:50], go ahead, one more. Oh, and Osma, you asked me a question yesterday about a credit. That is not possible.
Kristen Welker: (44:55)
Yeah, I do get that. Thank you.
Jen Psaki: (44:56)
Okay. Good. But for others.
Kristen Welker: (44:58)
Yes. There have been reports that EU countries are looking to approve a phased embargo on Russian oil as early as next week. And if that were to happen, it would be huge. And I am curious how the White House is coordinating with the EU on this.
Jen Psaki: (45:12)
Sure. One of the steps that the president took last month was to start this task force with the Europeans. I mean, we took steps before that, to work with a range of countries in Asia and around the world to provide additional supply, LNG supply, where they had access. Japan, for example, did that to provide excess LNG supply, because they had the ability to do that to the Europeans, in anticipation that Russia could weaponize energy, as we’ve seen President Putin do. There was a meeting of this task force yesterday to continue that coordination, have that discussion, and we’re just looking for ways that we can help them address these needs that we long anticipated. Thanks, everyone.
Speaker 9: (45:57)
[crosstalk 00:45:57] the weekend’s events?
Jen Psaki: (45:59)
Thank you everyone.
Speaker 9: (46:00)