Feb 19, 2023

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 2/17/23 Transcript

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 2/17/23 Transcript
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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 2/17/23. Read the transcript here.

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Karine Jean-Pierre (00:02):

Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday. We’ve made it. Okay, as you all know, the president is headed to Warsaw on Monday night where he will meet with Poland’s President Duda and the leaders of Eastern Flank NATO allies to reaffirm the United States’ unwavering support for the security of the alliance.

He will also deliver remarks ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And joining me today from the National Security Council is John Kirby, who will preview the trip. John, do you want to go?

John Kirby (00:37):

Yeah, sure.

Karine Jean-Pierre (00:37):

Are you ready?

John Kirby (00:37):

No, no, make sure [inaudible 00:00:40].

Karine Jean-Pierre (00:41):

It’s all yours. No, no. I know we were talking about something else back there, but we’re not going to do that.

John Kirby (00:44):

Yeah. Well, now you opened it up.

Karine Jean-Pierre (00:48):

I know.

John Kirby (00:50):

And it’s something to do with my age, I think. Well, thanks Karine, I appreciate it. Thanks, you all, for giving me a chance to come up here and talk on Friday. But as Karine just mentioned, the president’s very much looking forward to his trip to Warsaw next week, which is ahead of course of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

After he lands on Tuesday morning, he will meet with President Duda of Poland to discuss our bilateral cooperation as well as our collective efforts to support Ukraine and to bolster NATO’s deterrence. Poland, as you know, is a close NATO ally and has been a critical supporter of Ukraine over the past year. President Biden will thank President Duda and in fact the Polish people for the $3.8 billion in military and humanitarian assistance that they have provided to Ukraine over the past year, and for all the efforts that the Polish people have done to generously welcome more than one and a half million refugees from Ukraine.

The two leaders will discuss Poland’s important logistical role as well in helping the US facilitate deliveries of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine from not only the United States, but from our allies and partners. The president will also have a chance to thank Poland for how they have hosted now an increased number of US forces, including those that are permanently stationed and those who were deployed to Europe as part of our force posture adjustments, the ones that we announced last year following Russia’s invasion, are some 10,000 American troops in Poland right now, most of them on rotational orders.

On Tuesday evening local time, President Biden will deliver remarks in Warsaw on how the United States has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and democracy. President Biden will make it clear that the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine, as you’ve heard him say many times, for as long as it takes. And on Wednesday, President Biden will get a chance to meet with the leaders of the Bucharest Nine, otherwise known as the B-9. And these are largely the group of Eastern flank NATO allies who are basically and, quite frankly, literally on the front lines of our collective defense right now. And he’ll do so to reaffirm the United States’ unwavering support for the security of that alliance and transatlantic unity. The leaders will discuss our efforts over the past year to strengthen NATO, which is stronger and now more united than it was, than it has ever been, and how each of our nations will continue to work together as allies to continue our unwavering support for Ukraine.

Now, this is an important trip for the president, and it comes at an important moment. It also follows days of diplomacy at the Munich Security Conference where the vice president, the Secretary of State, the senior director here at the NSC for Europe and many other cabinet members, administration officials, members of Congress are all meeting with our allies and partners to discuss our enduring support for the people of Ukraine, as well as our Trans-Atlantic unity and our ironclad support for our NATO allies in light of all the changes to the European security environment over the last year. And as the president believes, that security environment has changed. Not is changing, not will change. Has changed. In fact, Vice President Harris is meeting with foreign leaders including Chancellor Scholz of Germany, President Macron of France. Tomorrow the vice president will deliver a keynote address about our support for Ukraine and the atrocities that Russian forces continue to commit against the Ukrainian people. As you all know, close coordination with our allies and partners has been a priority for President Biden since taking office and throughout the past year as we support Ukraine. In addition to his engagements in Poland, President Biden is looking forward to hosting Chancellor Scholz at the White House on March 3rd, and the president will be speaking with a number of our allies next week on the phone, including Prime Minister Sunak of the United Kingdom, President Macron of France, Prime Minister Meloni of Italy.

As we approach the one-year mark since this invasion, we can proudly say that our support for Ukraine remains unwavering, and our alliances and our international coalition in support of Ukraine remains stronger than ever. With that, [inaudible 00:04:56]

Karine Jean-Pierre (04:55):

[inaudible 00:04:56]

John Kirby (04:55):

Oh, no. We’re back to my age again.

Speaker 1 (05:06):

Thank you very much.

Karine Jean-Pierre (05:06):

Looking at Scott.

Speaker 2 (05:09):

Actually, I actually had a brief follow up on the balloon incidents from earlier this week.

John Kirby (05:13):


Speaker 2 (05:14):

Have you seen a story in Aviation Week that an Illinois Hobby Club feels like their balloon might have been a candidate for the balloon shot?

John Kirby (05:22):

I have. I’ve seen that question [inaudible 00:05:24].

Speaker 2 (05:23):

Any response to that, because it’s a very particular location in the last set of data that they got?

John Kirby (05:28):

We just can’t confirm those reports or what the remains of that balloon might actually end up being, and we haven’t recovered it. So, it’s very difficult until you can get your hands on something to be able to tell. And because of where it is over Lake Huron, I mean, we all have to accept the possibility that we may not be able to recover it.

Speaker 2 (05:50):

But quick following on what the president said yesterday. He stood by it that it was out of an abundance of caution, but an anecdote like this, does it make any sort of reconsideration of perhaps this was an overreaction at any point over the past week?

John Kirby (06:02):

So, I’d ask you to just for a second put yourself in his shoes, especially certainly in light of the Chinese spy balloon and what was a very real, certainly very sizable and tangible security threat, surveillance threat to the United States, in the wake of that. So, the military fine-tunes their radar parameters to see more, and of course they’re finding more. And you’ve got these three, and they’re unidentified. They’re not responding to any kind of communication, so we don’t know who owns them or what their purpose is, and they’re flying in sovereign US airspace.

They’re also at altitudes that could affect the safety of civilian air traffic. And based on the flight path and the prevailing winds, potentially moving over sensitive military sites. And the military leaders come to you and they say, “Mr. President, we don’t know what these are. We’re concerned about what they could be and about where they could be going and what the purpose might be. And we recommend that you take these down in the interest of safety and security of the American people and out of an abundance of caution.” The president acted on that recommendation because he takes so seriously his responsibilities to protect this country, our secrets, our interests, and our people.

So, the short answer to your question is absolutely not. Given the situation we were in, the information available, the recommendation of our military commanders, it was exactly the right thing to do at exactly the right time.

Now, going forward, and you heard the president talk about this yesterday, we’re going to make sure we’ve got some new rules in place for how we make decisions in future circumstances. That doesn’t mean, and it doesn’t mean, and you heard the president say this yesterday, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be additional shoot-downs if he believes there’s a legitimate threat to our safety and security, but it does mean that we’re going to put a new set of parameters on the decision making process going forward.

Speaker 2 (08:01):

But, and just last follow up on that, everything you just said, can that coexist? Let me rephrase. Is there any feeling of frustration of perhaps this was a $12 hobby balloon from a group of kids in Illinois after the fact?

John Kirby (08:15):

Again, given the information that we had at the time and the legitimate concerns about potential surveillance in the wake of the Chinese spy balloon, you make decisions based on the best information that you have. And ultimately you have to come down to some core principles when you’re making decisions as commander-in-chief. Of course, the most core principle at all of all is safety and security of the American people and our interests. So again, I say to you, the short answer to that is no.

And frankly, given the circumstances in light of what happened with the spy balloon, wouldn’t that be a better outcome if it turns out that they were in fact civilian or recreational use or a weather balloon and therefore benign, which is what the intelligence community thinks? Isn’t that a better outcome than to have to think about the possibility of greater threats to our national security?

Speaker 3 (09:12):

Thanks, Karine. So John, I take that to mean, and you guys don’t have any plans to reimburse the Bottlecap Balloon Brigade?

John Kirby (09:18):

I don’t know of any plans to reimburse. We honestly don’t know what this is.

Speaker 3 (09:22):

More generally speaking, what can you tell Americans about what they should expect in the future, understanding that these new parameters are going to be classified, if they see something in the air, should there be any concern that a missile’s going to follow it?

John Kirby (09:37):

Again, we’re not going to rule anything out, in or out in terms of how we’re going to treat with additional potential unidentified aircraft. I thought the president did a terrific job yesterday of putting this into some context and making it clear to the American people that their safety will always come first, that these are likely, we’re going to find out that they were likely of a benign purpose and not a threat at all.

So, there shouldn’t be any overarching concern by the American people that the skies are somehow full of attack balloons or that they’re at greater risk. If anything, look back at how we dealt with this, again with information that we had that wasn’t complete, but yet legitimate concerns about a threat, and dealing with that threat safely and efficiently. Nobody hurt. Nobody hurt as these balloons were taken down.

And I think that that should give the American people a measure of comfort and confidence. But the president wants to make sure that as we go forward, we do so smartly and we do so effectively. And that’s why he wants a set of new rules determined so that we can now deal with these in perhaps a different way in the future.

Speaker 3 (10:49):

While we have you here, what can you tell us about this ISIS raid in Syria?

John Kirby (10:53):

Yeah, so I think you saw Central Command put a statement out that last night, US military and SDF partnered forces conducted a helicopter raid against an ISIS senior leader, a man named Hamza al-Homsi, and he was overseeing the group’s deadly terrorist network in Eastern Syria before he was killed in the raid. As the Pentagon has reported, an explosion during the raid also resulted in four US troops and one of the working dogs suffering some injuries. The troops and the working dog are in stable condition. They’re being treated at a US military facility, US medical facility in Iraq, and I think the Pentagon will have more information on that.

Karine Jean-Pierre (11:38):

Okay, in the back. In the back.

Speaker 4 (11:40):

Thanks, Karine, and thanks, John. So, two questions. First, will the American public eventually find out what these three unidentified objects are, including which companies they belong to and which specific benign purposes they had?

John Kirby (11:54):

We would like nothing better, but I can’t sit here and promise you that we’ll get to that level of fidelity of detail. A lot of it’s going to depend on an inability to recover these three objects. And just to remind you, one’s on sea ice in the north of Alaska in Arctic conditions, extremely bad winter weather up there. They have not been able to really mount anything on the ice to find them now.

The other’s in the Yukon Territory, thick wilderness. And as of today, I don’t believe the Royal Canadian Mountain Police or their investigative organizations have been able to get to it.

And then the other one fell over Lake Huron, again in very deep water. I think the Canadians have decided that they’re not going to look for it anymore. I don’t believe that the United States has made a call on that yet. So, pretty tough conditions going to be very difficult to find them, let alone once you find that debris, be able to do the forensics to identify it. So, I can’t promise you that we’ll know definitively one way or the other.

Speaker 4 (12:53):

I have a question on President Biden’s talk with Xi Jinping. So, as the administration is trying to ease tensions, the House Select Committee on China is trying to focus on human rights abuses by the regime, by planning hearings, etc, on that topic. Will President Biden bring up human rights issues with Xi Jinping?

John Kirby (13:11):

The president never fails to bring up human rights concern. And when he met with President Xi in Bali, he brought it up then. And it’s not just with President Xi. The President believes that you have to lead with your values, particularly in foreign policy. He’s never shy about bringing that up.

Karine Jean-Pierre (13:31):

Go ahead, [inaudible 00:13:34].

Speaker 5 (13:36):

Thanks, Karine. John, what’s the likelihood that President Biden meets with President Zelensky next week?

John Kirby (13:40):

There’s no meeting. You’re talking about on the trip? There’s no meeting with President Zelensky scheduled for the trip right now.

Speaker 5 (13:47):

And related to President Xi and that call with President Biden as well, have tensions cooled enough to where to the two leaders could jump on the phone together right now?

John Kirby (13:58):

There is an open line of communication, and I’m not denying that there aren’t still tensions, particularly in the wake of the spy balloon. We don’t believe it’s the appropriate time right now for Secretary Blinken to travel to Beijing. And you heard the president that he will want to have another conversation with President Xi, as you might expect that he would, but we don’t have anything on the schedule right now, and we’ll have to do that at the time when the president believes it’s appropriate.

What’s really important here, and I know the question was about President Biden and President Xi, is that the lines of communication with the PRC remain open. I recognize that there are tensions, but Secretary Blinken still has an open line of communication with the foreign minister. We still have an embassy in Beijing with a terrific ambassador, Nick Burns. And the State Department also can communicate directly with the PRC’s embassy personnel here. So, the lines are open.

Unfortunately, the military lines aren’t open, and that’s really what we would like to see amended. And it was of course curtailed after Speaker Pelosi’s to Taiwan.

Speaker 5 (15:04):

Is there a pre-condition for a call?

John Kirby (15:06):

There’s no pre-conditions for a call. The president will want to have a conversation with President Xi at the appropriate time.

Speaker 6 (15:14):

Thank you. Thanks, Kirby. Just a quick one on the president’s trip to Poland. Is he going to be making a stop to [inaudible 00:15:22] or anywhere other than Warsaw?

John Kirby (15:24):

Right now the trip is going to be in Warsaw.

Speaker 6 (15:28):

Okay. Before the Chinese spy balloon incident led to a fine-tuning of radar, how was the administration tracking these flying objects, if at all?

John Kirby (15:37):

Let me go back and just, I want to answer your first question again. I said right now the trip will be in to Warsaw, so I didn’t want to make it sound like I was alluding to a change to it. And your second question was how were we tracking these before?

Speaker 6 (15:50):

Correct. Because the reason why you were able to detect and shoot down these three objects, the president said yesterday was because you were trying to-

John Kirby (15:58):

They adjusted the radar.

Speaker 6 (16:01):

Correct, yeah. So what were you doing before, if anything, to track aerial objects?

John Kirby (16:05):

The commander of NORAD, General VanHerck, spoke to this last week. And the way he characterized it was that they were tuned to look for, defaulted to look for other types of threats in our airspace, fast-moving, lower altitude, more kinetic potential threats such as ballistic or cruise missiles or bomber or fighter aircraft. That’s what their focus was, that they had not adjusted the, as he called it, gates on the radar, the filters to look for things that were much higher, much slower, and a smaller radar cross section, harder to see.

So, as we said the other day, when you adjust for that, you’re likely to see more of what you’re asking the radar to look for, but it just wasn’t set for that. He was focused on other types of threats, more kinetic threats to our potential kinetic threats in our airspace.

Speaker 6 (17:10):

So, it sounds like yesterday the president said that he wanted to work to establish a better inventory of unmanned airborne objects. Does that mean currently there is no inventory?

John Kirby (17:22):

I wouldn’t say there’s none, but I think it’s fair to say that he wants us to focus a little bit more on this particular issue and learn more about what’s out there and what’s up there, quite frankly.

Speaker 6 (17:34):

Got it. And then how long do you think it will take to implement this four-step plan, and what will you do in the meantime? Is the policy to shoot them down before you implement these four things the president wants?

John Kirby (17:48):

No, I think you can imagine that even though we’re still working on the policy parameters that we’re going to continue to follow a very deliberate, thoughtful decision making process here, should there be another track. There aren’t any right now. I can’t give you a timeline specific to the calendar about when will be done this work, but it won’t take very long. I think in a matter of days we’ll be able to transmit to Congress the classified parameters we’re still working out through the inter-agency right now, and get those to the Hill within days, I think. And then we’ll be executing on it, so I don’t want to leave you with the impression that there’s going to be some big, old air gap between him wanting these parameters written and us being able to execute on them.

Speaker 6 (18:34):

How long is it do you think it’ll take?

John Kirby (18:36):

I mean, we’re already in many ways using some of those parameters just informally as we’re looking at the skies. Again, there’s no active tracks right now. So, I think it’ll just be, we’ll transmit these parameters within coming days. It won’t be very, very long. And it’s not like it’s going to be sent to be debated on or voted on. It’s going to be our parameters, parameters divined by the National Security Council team and the inter-agency on how we’re going to deal with this.

Speaker 2 (19:07):

So, question on the trip to Poland. Polls show American support for Ukraine has softened somewhat. There’s obviously concerns about how [inaudible 00:19:16] not going along with more support for Ukraine. How does the president try to square that with his message of support on the trip? And is his audience, will you consider it to be a domestic audience back home? Or is his audience Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe?

John Kirby (19:30):

The president well knows that whenever he speaks, he’s speaking to people all around the world as well as of course the American people. But I think you’ll hear messages in the president’s speech that will certainly resonate with the American people, certainly resonate with our allies and partners, without question resonate with the Polish people who have done so much and continue to do so. And I would suspect that you’ll hear him messaging Mr. Putin as well, as as the Russian people. Now, I want to go back to your first question.

John Kirby (20:00):

It almost assumes as if support’s going to wane or waiver or dwindle, and that’s just not how the President sees it. Yes, there are a small number of members on Capitol Hill, House Republicans specifically, that have expressed publicly their concerns about support for Ukraine. But if you talk to the House leadership, you won’t hear that. And you certainly aren’t going to hear it on the Democratic side, and you don’t hear it in Senate. There has been terrific bipartisan support through the entire years. Think about what we’ve done over this year. All of it has been done in the full consultation and coordination with Congress. There’s no such thing as a blank check. We’re all doing it together, and the support from Congress has really been extraordinary, and the President looks forward to that support continuing.

Speaker 7 (20:47):

Thank you very much. Is the President prepared to send US fighter jets to Ukraine? What’s the current…

John Kirby (20:52):

We talked about this. I think the President actually got asked this question and he spoke to it. I don’t have anything to add from what the President said. I’ll just tell you that we remain in constant communication with the Ukrainians about what their needs are, and those needs have evolved as the war has evolved. And we’ll see where this goes.

Speaker 7 (21:06):

If Poland has MIG-29s at Ramstein Airbase, is the US prepared to facilitate the delivery of those MIG-29s if Poland does…

John Kirby (21:13):

I don’t know of any requests by the Pols to transmit their MIG-29s to Ukraine. We have never dictated to another partner what they can or can’t give or on what timeline. And if one of our allies and partners wants to provide fighter aircraft to President Zelensky, that’s certainly a sovereign decision that they have every right to make, and we would welcome that.

Speaker 7 (21:36):

My last follow-up on this: There’s a hundred million dollars in the appropriations bill in July to train Ukrainian pilots on US aircraft. What’s the status of that training? Are there…

John Kirby (21:46):

There’s no training underway right now because there’s no commitment by the United States to provide fighter aircraft.

Speaker 7 (21:54):

But you don’t have to have a fighter aircraft to do the training.

John Kirby (21:55):

There’s no training underway right now but fighter pilots.

Speaker 8 (21:57):

Thank you. On President Biden, the President Biden’s trip to Poland, can we expect any deliverables during this trip, like a new military package for Ukraine or a new framework of support for Ukraine? And another one you just mentioned at the beginning of this press briefing; that there are 10,000 US troops in Poland. Why there’s no meeting with the troops on President Biden, President Biden’s schedule?

John Kirby (22:27):

The President routinely visits with the men and women of the military and their families. So does the First Lady. You can’t look at a single set of remarks he ever gives, including yesterday, where he doesn’t call out the troops and how prideful he is in them. And this particular trip is a short one, and it’s going to be focused on events in Warsaw. You never want to make it about you when you’re up here, but as a veteran myself, I can promise you I never worried ever when he was Vice President or certainly as President about his concern for the welfare of the men and women in uniform and their families, not a single way.

Speaker 8 (23:07):

And what about the first question?

John Kirby (23:09):

I was trying to ignore the first question. I thought that if I was eloquent on my second answer… So I’m not going to get into the President. I think you can understand that. We have been consistent in rolling out additional security assistance packages to Ukraine on a fairly routine and regular basis, and that will continue. I’m not going to speak, get ahead of the President’s remarks.

Speaker 9 (23:29):

[inaudible 00:23:28] spoken with other allies… Sorry.

John Kirby (23:32):

I’ll say that I think you’ll hear from the President in his speech continued tangible support for Ukraine going forward. I mean, he will talk about the ways in which we’re going to continue to support Ukraine going forward.

Speaker 9 (23:48):

So, on the balloon question, so you reached out to allies, told them that you believe that these balloons have been sighted over dozens of countries.

John Kirby (23:56):

40 to 50.

Speaker 9 (23:56):

40 to 50. Have you asked other countries to take action against those balloons? And have you seen an increase or decrease in the sightings and the activity since this all became public?

John Kirby (24:10):

No. The purpose was not to ask them to take action one way or another. These are, again, sovereign decisions that nations have to make. It was about informing them of the context, the forensics that we did to learn more about this program and the ways in which their countries may have been overflown in the past.

Speaker 9 (24:26):

And then just following up on Mark’s question, Zelensky today spoke of Munich’s security conference, and he asked the West urgently, appealed to the West to provide more, bigger, heavier weapons more quickly because everyone fears the offensive that is expected. So what do you say to Zelensky? What will Harris say when she goes?

John Kirby (24:51):

You can’t hardly blame him, can you? I mean, one year on, how many millions flown into refuge inside and outside the country? How many soldiers killed? How many towns and cities destroyed? How many hospitals and schools bombed? Can’t blame President Zelensky for wanting more, heavier, faster. I mean, he’s a Commander-in-Chief in a time of war, a war he didn’t ask for and certainly had… There was no justification for it. And we understand that. We also understand the clock, and we know that time is critical here, particularly the time in the wintertime now, when the fighting is not quite as widespread across the country. There’s quite a bit of vicious fighting in and around Bakhmut. In fact, I’d like to talk about Bakhmut in a second, even though you didn’t ask about it.

So we’re going to try to do what we can to use this time to get Mr. Zelensky as much as possible, as fast as we can, so that when the weather improves… And we all have to assume and expect that the Russians will want to go back on the offense. Now, right now, they’re fighting over Bakhmut, but it’s possible that along that arc from northeast to southwest that they may want to renew their offensive operations, that he’s ready for it, and that if he chooses to, he can go on the offense as well.

You didn’t ask about Bakhmut, but I want to mention it just briefly a little bit. I mean, we’ve talked about Bakhmut in the past. No strategic value to the Russians. Seems to be an operation almost exclusively run by Mr. Prigozhin and the Wagner group more than it is the Russian Ministry of Defense. They have made incremental gains in and around Bakhmut over the last few days. And we certainly can’t predict one way or the other. I mean, it is possible that they might end up being successful in Bakhmut, but it will prove of no real worth to them because it is of no real strategic value. The Ukrainians will continue to maintain, we believe, strong defensive lines across the Donbas and will be and still are fighting very, very hard for Bakhmut.

But I do want to say this about the Wagner group, particularly with respect to Bakhmut. I mean, again, they’re treating their recruits, largely convicts, as basically as canon fodder, throwing them into a literal meat grinder here, inhuman ways, without a second thought. And while fighting in Ukraine, we estimate now that Wagner has suffered more than 30,000 casualties, including approximately 9,000 killed in action. About half of those who were killed, Wagner folks, contractors who were killed, were killed since mid-December. So think about that. Two and a half months, 9,000 killed as the fighting in Bakhmut has intensified. Based on previous intelligence, we estimated that about 90% of those killed in the December fighting alone, just in December, were convicts, men that he just plucked out of prisons and threw on the battlefield with no training, no equipping, no organizational command, just throw them into the fight. 90% killed were convicts. We believe that Wagner continues to rely heavily on these convicts in the Bakhmut fighting, and that doesn’t show any signs of abating. I know you didn’t ask that question, but I wanted to get that out there.

Speaker 10 (28:07):

Yeah, thank you. Does it remain the case that no companies, institutions or other entities have come forward to the federal government to claim possible ownership of the three objects that were shot down?

John Kirby (28:20):

As far as I know, it is true that no one has come forward to claim ownership.

Speaker 10 (28:23):

Okay. And so that Illinois group, they’ve not come forward?

John Kirby (28:27):

I’m not aware of any formal process or official process on behalf of that group to come forward. We’ve seen the press reports.

Speaker 10 (28:33):

Yeah. Have you identified any possible entities that could be responsible for these?

John Kirby (28:38):

Not that I’m aware of, no.

Speaker 10 (28:39):

So you have no possible leads on where these objects might’ve come from?

John Kirby (28:44):

We don’t, sir. And I think it’ll be very difficult to make some sort of positive identification unless you can get to the debris, and even that could be a difficult process.

Speaker 10 (28:53):

On the debris, I mean, there’s no way to identify it without looking at the…

John Kirby (28:56):

I mean, unless an organization comes forward and knows definitively that it was their property. But I mean, even that might be difficult for that entity to know.

Speaker 10 (29:03):

Is the government going to try to reach out to this Illinois amateur?

John Kirby (29:06):

I know of no outreach to that group. We don’t have the debris. There’s no way to no positively identify it.

Speaker 10 (29:13):


John Kirby (29:13):

Yeah. Thank you.

Speaker 11 (29:15):

One quick question regarding the Chinese balloon. Can you tell us what’s been determined from the wreckage that was found from that particular…

John Kirby (29:23):

No, I can’t because we’re not done an analyzing. They did finish their recovery operations off the Carolina Coast. They got almost all, at least that which was recoverable, and it’s quite a bit. It’s a significant amount, including the payload structure as well as some of the electronics and the optics. And all that’s now at the FBI laboratory in Quantico. They’re analyzing it. They’re looking at it. And we need to let them do their work in a thoughtful, deliberate way. I want to caveat all this by saying there may be some things we will not be able to disclose, and I think you can understand why that is. But we’re going to exploit this material as best we can. We learned a lot already from the balloon by surveilling it while it was flying over the country. We’re going to learn even more, we believe, by getting a look at the guts inside it and see how it worked and what it was capable of.

Speaker 11 (30:13):

What about the information the Chinese has been able to learn about the US based on that surveillance?

John Kirby (30:19):

Again, we’ll have to get inside it and do the best we can on the forensics of it. That said, we do not believe that they were able to get anything additive to what already they were able to get through other sources, because we could predict its flight path along that jet stream over the continent. Because it was moving slow, we were able to put in place protocols at sensitive military sites in the country, particularly in the Midwest, to limit any collection ability. So we don’t believe that the balloon’s able to collect anything of great significance, certainly nothing additive to what the Chinese may have already been able to do through other means. Thank you.

Speaker 12 (31:05):

Thanks. John, a year ago in Poland, the President said that Vladimir Putin shouldn’t remain in power. We were later told that this wasn’t a call for regime change. Given that we’re now one year on, the war has dragged on this time, is there any change in the US approach? Do you think removing Vladimir Putin from power in Moscow would help bring an end to this war?

John Kirby (31:25):

There’s no change in our policy with respect to the Russian government. What could end the war is real simple. I mean, it ain’t hard. All he’s got to do is take his troops out of Ukraine. They don’t belong there anyway. Pull them out. The war would be over.

Speaker 13 (31:44):

Thank you very much, [inaudible 00:31:46], and thank you, Admiral. Two questions about this whole series of military shoot-downs. First, it defies reason that you would have zero idea what these three objects were since the fighter jets themselves took video of their sorties. Will you release the cockpit videos from those missions?

John Kirby (32:08):

I’d have to refer to DOD on that, James, in terms of releasing the imagery. I never said we had zero idea. I said we don’t know what they are, and so did the President. The President also told you that the intelligence community’s leading explanations at this point are that they were a benign purpose, probably commercial, recreation, or scientific research. But we may not be able to go to 100% certainty on that unless or until we can get to the debris and analyze it. And as I said earlier, that task alone is going to be very difficult. And I can’t predict with certainty that we’re actually going to be able to get, recover the debris. But we never said we had no idea. We can’t prove definitively… The intelligence community has helped us try to do some analysis on this, and that’s their leading explanation.

Speaker 13 (32:51):

So you have tried to portray this entire sequence of events as one in which the Commander-in-Chief demonstrated good judgment at the right time and did the right things. The President’s critics obviously see it differently. And what they depict is a Commander-in-Chief who, according to the Washington Post reporting, was able to track this Chinese spy balloon from the inception of its mission off of Hainan Island all the way to US airspace and across the country, and eventually that was shot down after the Chinese had a good look at whatever they wanted to see with that balloon; and who then presided over a series of missions in which millions and millions of dollars were spent and missiles were fired at objects that you now concede most likely were benign in nature. And that suggests a Commander-in-Chief who overreacted after allowing the Chinese spy balloon to do what it did, and then when trigger-happy on a bunch of kites and balloons that had no military threat to them. What do you say to that depiction of events?

John Kirby (34:01):

I’ve already reacted to that exact criticism in the first question of the briefing. I’ve already reacted to it. Nobody, no Americans in the air were hurt. No Americans on the ground were hurt, James. No significant surveillance achieved by the Chinese spy balloon. And now we have an opportunity to learn even more about this program, a program that we started to really study in earnest when we came into office. No apologies here. You make the best decisions you can with the information you have and at the recommendation of the leaders in the defense department who are going to have to execute on that mission. The President did exactly that. He put the safety and security of the American people first, and he will never apologize for that, nor should he.

Speaker 13 (34:48):

Knowing everything you know now, knowing everything he knows now, would he take the exact same steps and shoot off these expensive missiles at these benign objects?

John Kirby (34:54):

We’re going to put some more policy parameters in place, James, to govern the way we handle these going forward. You make the best decisions you can with the information you have at the recommendation of military leaders. I can’t say it any more than that.

Speaker 6 (35:08):

Thank you. John, you said often… Actually, let me just really clarify one more thing before I move on to the Ukraine. Have we formed…

John Kirby (35:15):

I can’t imagine anything I said needs to be clarified.

Speaker 6 (35:18):

Yes. Have we put forward the formal request to the Chinese for the call of President Xi?

John Kirby (35:23):


Speaker 6 (35:24):

Oka., so there’s no formal request as yet?

John Kirby (35:26):


Speaker 6 (35:26):

Okay. And on…

John Kirby (35:26):

That doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. The President still doesn’t want to talk to President. He will.

Speaker 6 (35:32):

Understood. On Ukraine, you’ve said often that Ukraine gets to decide when it wants to negotiate. But at this point, is there any serious effort or is there any effort from the administration side to look at pathways to peace? Do we have any idea what those pathways to peace might look like? Is it even realistic at this point absent of Putin stopping his aggression?

John Kirby (35:55):

We’re working with Mr. Zelensky on his 10-point proposal. I think you’re all familiar with that. And he asked if the United States could devote some of our team to help his team sort of figure out how we can best operationalize that proposal. And that work is ongoing.

Speaker 6 (36:10):

Okay. And I think part of the problem with the pathways to peace that doesn’t seem like it’s realistic at this point is the issue on who keeps what territorially. That just seems like it’s way off in the future.

John Kirby (36:22):

Why do you think it’s unrealistic right now?

Speaker 6 (36:25):

Well, I mean, I don’t know. Is it? Do you think that it’s realistic as to what…

John Kirby (36:28):

Do you think Mr. Putin has shown even a scrap of interest in ending this war? Like I said, the war could end today. No. And what’s he doing instead? Launching cruise missiles and drones into civilian infrastructure, knocking out the power, knocking off the heat, killing kids, sending kids to camps inside Russia, buying drones from Iran and trying to buy artillery shells from North Korea. This is not a man who’s at all serious about ending this war. And quite frankly, it shouldn’t have to end through negotiations. Now, that’s likely the way this will go when President Zelensky is ready for it. But he could end it now just by pulling his troops out He has shown no indication of being willing to do that. And so there cannot be a serious peace proposal or negotiation until the Russians have shown even a scrap of interest in actually stopping the murder and the slaughter of innocent Ukrainian people. And in the meantime, as President Zelensky very eloquently said over in Munich, there’s a need, a real need, an urgent need for the rest of the global community to come together and support him so that his troops can succeed on the battlefield. And that’s what we’re going to stay focused on right now. So, if and when he does negotiate, he can do it with a position of strength.

Peter Alexander (37:45):

John, one on each topic we’ve been talking about right here. First, as it relates to the Chinese spy balloon, given the reporting that the US was monitoring or aware of it since its departure from China, much the same way that they shot it within the 12 miles off the coast of South Carolina, why not make an active decision to shoot it in the 12 miles or the miles off the West Coast as well? Why not shoot it before it was over US land?

John Kirby (38:08):

Well, without speaking to the veracity of this reporting, I would end it. And the specific nature of our ability to track it, the Northcom commander, NORAD Commander, General Van Herck has already spoken to this in terms of why he didn’t take action at the time.

Peter Alexander (38:32):

Well, wasn’t he speaking to when it was over the United States, not…

John Kirby (38:35):

No. He was speaking to… He got asked specifically about approaching Alaska and why he didn’t take action. And he talked about no hostile intent, no hostile threat, and concern for lives and livelihood on the ground.

Peter Alexander (38:49):

Do we have a domain awareness gap?

John Kirby (38:51):

He has said he has identified a domain awareness gap.

Peter Alexander (38:55):

Is this part of this review that’s taking place in some [inaudible 00:38:57]…

John Kirby (38:57):

So it’s not a review. We’re simply developing…

Peter Alexander (39:00):

… as part of this effort?

John Kirby (39:00):

We are developing new policy parameters that are going to be helping us with the decision-making process, Peter. Now, General Van Herck talked about a domain awareness gap. Some of that gap has been addressed by fine-tuning the radars and making them more sensitive to things that are high, slow, and small. And we will certainly continue to work with the Defense Department as they begin to move forward. They got a new budget they’re working on. If there needs to be more resources applied to this particular challenge, then that’s certainly a conversation worth having.

Peter Alexander (39:31):

Then lastly, about the trip in late January, the administration announced dozens of Bradleys would be sent to Ukraine and the update… Those obviously needed to be built. And the update on the timetable within which those will be delivered to Ukraine.

John Kirby (39:47):

I think you’re getting a little confused. The Abrams tanks…

Peter Alexander (39:50):

Excuse me. I meant to say Abrams tanks. Correct.

John Kirby (39:55):

I don’t know where they are in the procurement process. That’s a better question for the Defense Department. I’d refer you to those guys.

John Kirby (40:00):

… But it’s going to be many months before they can be contracted for, built, and procured, and getting them into Ukrainian hands. It’s going to be awhile.

Speaker 14 (40:10):

[inaudible 00:40:10]. Thank you. When the President says he’s going to support Ukraine as long as it takes, does it mean that if President Zelensky decides to launch a battle to retake Crimea, the President would support him as well? And another question, can you confirm that the top Pentagon official has arrived in Taiwan for a visit?

John Kirby (40:30):

On the first question, I’m not going to get into a hypothetical. I’m certainly not going to hypothesize about potential future operations that the Ukrainians might or might not conduct. That’s up to President Zelensky and his team. When President Biden says, “As long as it takes,” he means as long as it takes. He’s not trying to be cute by half. There’s no special way to interpret that. He means as long as it takes. Hopefully it won’t take any longer than another day or so, but I think we all know that’s not the case. So when he says it, he means it. And I think all you got to do is look back at the last year at the unprecedented amount of assistance, security assistance alone. Forget about just the financial and humanitarian assistance that the United States has not only provided, but led the world in providing. So he stands by that. And I can’t confirm your other question. You’d have to talk to my colleagues at the Defense Department. I don’t have detail on the-

Karine Jean-Pierre (41:23):

Two more.

John Kirby (41:23):

… Schedule.

Speaker 15 (41:26):

Are you able to provide any update on whether there are discussions of other Western leaders coming to Poland while President Biden is there? There have been grumblings that Rishi Sunak could come.

John Kirby (41:36):


Speaker 15 (41:37):

That’s the best word I can come up with.

John Kirby (41:39):

Grumblings, that what?

Speaker 15 (41:40):

Grumblings that Rishi Sunak, Macron, could come to Poland while the president is there next week.

John Kirby (41:45):

Yeah, I don’t know of any plans that you’d have to talk to their offices about their travel. As I said, he does look forward to meeting with the B-Nine, the Bucharest Nine leaders, so there will be leaders from the Eastern Flank countries of NATO coming to Warsaw to meet with the President, with President Duda. I don’t know about others.

Speaker 15 (42:05):

And then just one follow-up.

John Kirby (42:05):

I did say in my opening statement that he will reach out to Prime Minister Sunak, he will reach out to Prime Minister Meloni of Italy, and he’ll talk to President Macron of France, next week. He’s anticipating conversations with them next week.

Speaker 15 (42:17):

Okay. Thank you. And then does the White House have any sense of when it will need to go back to Congress and ask for another security assistance package for Ukraine?

John Kirby (42:26):

No. Again, hopefully we won’t need to, but we’ll certainly be prepared to. We are still executing, in the early phases of executing, on the appropriated funds, we got at the end of the last Congress, which is some 42, I think, billion dollars. Much of that was devoted to security assistance and as you can see, we’ve already started sending packages. We believe that this funding will get us through much of this year and I just don’t have a date certain where I would tell you we’d have to go back. But obviously if we feel like we need to, back to the President’s comments about as long as it takes, we’ll do that and we’ll do that at the appropriate time, well in advance of the expiration of any existing funds.

Karine Jean-Pierre (43:02):

Natalie, right?

Priscilla (43:03):


Karine Jean-Pierre (43:04):


Priscilla (43:04):


Karine Jean-Pierre (43:10):

Well welcome to the-

John Kirby (43:11):

Well you got close.

Priscilla (43:11):

Thank you.

Karine Jean-Pierre (43:11):

No, not close enough.

John Kirby (43:11):

I was trying to be nice.

Karine Jean-Pierre (43:11):

Well welcome to [inaudible 00:43:12].

Priscilla (43:11):

Thank you. On next week’s visit, are there plans for President Biden cross into Ukraine?

John Kirby (43:18):


Priscilla (43:19):

And then on the balloons, the protocols and the way they’ve been adjusted now and how the parameters will be adjusted in the future. Does that give the administration confidence that objects that are benign in nature, won’t be shot down?

John Kirby (43:32):

What I can tell you is these parameters will help us sharpen the decision-making process, now that we are looking for more and finding more, and you think and that that’s appropriate. But I’d also point you back to what the President said, if he deemed something as a threat, he’s not going to hesitate. So you’re asking me can I promise that if he were to take that action, that every single thing would turn out to be exactly what we thought it would be? I can’t promise that. All I can promise you is, that he will always act in the best interest of the American people, our national security interests, the ability to protect our sensitive military sites and our nation’s secrets. That will always come first and that will always be the default position that he’ll take as he makes these decisions.

Priscilla (44:19):

So that doesn’t rule out that objects that are benign-

John Kirby (44:21):

You’re asking hypothetical. We’re not even there yet. All I can tell you is that every decision he’ll make going forward, will certainly be in keeping with these new parameters, but also designed to keep us safe.

Priscilla (44:30):

Thank you.

John Kirby (44:31):

Thank you. Sorry, to take so long.

Karine Jean-Pierre (44:32):

Are you kidding me? We appreciate it.

John Kirby (44:32):

All right.

Speaker 16 (44:32):

Thanks John. Thank you.

John Kirby (44:32):

Have a great weekend.

Karine Jean-Pierre (44:38):

Okay, I just have a couple things at the top. One of them, I’ll start off with the Turkey, Syria and the assistance that we are providing currently after the devastating earthquake. So the US through USAID is airlifting more than 2.5 million worth of emergency relief supplies to the people of Turkey, as part of the 85 million in assistance. We have pledged to support the people of Turkey and Syria, following again the devastating February 6th earthquakes. Today, US Ambassador to Turkey, Jeff Flake met the arrival of the initial delivery of these supplies at Adana Airport, while the supplies were loaded onto trucks for delivery to affected communities. Secretary Blinken has also announced travel to Turkey over the weekend.

Over the coming days, USAID will continue to transport relief supplies on approximately 10 flights with more than 1.8 million pounds of supplies of kitchen sets, hygiene kits, heavy duty plastic sheeting for temporary shelters, and high thermal blankets to provide for hundreds of thousands of people. In Syria, we must keep aid flowing so that the Syrian people get the help they so desperately need. The decisions earlier this week to open two additional border crossings for UN convoys is welcome but long overdue. And we must ensure that they cannot be turned off on a whim. We believe that a security council resolution, codifying the opening of additional border checkpoints in security council resolution, is the best way to do that and will continue pressing that forward.

I also want to say a few words about Senator Fetterman before we continue. Millions of Americans, as you all know, go untreated with depression every day. Senator Fetterman did the right thing and brave thing today, or just this week, by getting the help that he definitely needs. So the President is committed to making sure every American can get help they need too. Which is why he made addressing mental health a priority from his earliest days as President. His administration has made unprecedented investments in expanding access to mental health services. Including better incorporating mental health into the broader health care system, securing bipartisan funding to get more mental health resources to schools, and bolstering the 988 suicide hotline.In his State of the Union speech just last week, the President continued to call for Republicans and Democrats to work together to get this done. As the President and First Lady shared this morning, they are thinking about John, Gisele and their entire Fetterman family today. And they are grateful to Senator Fetterman for being an example to this.

And briefly and last, I want to say to all of you yesterday, Secretary Walsh announced that he will step down from his role as Labor Secretary in the upcoming weeks. As the President said in his statement about the Secretary’s departure, “Secretary Walsh is one tough union chief and his record at the Department of Labor is a testament to the power of putting a card carrying union member in charge of fighting for American workers. Through the secretary’s leadership, the administration has helped Union secure a historic pay raise for rail workers, continued the fight for paid sick days for all American workers, strengthen workplace protections, and ushered a historic surge in union organizing. Secretary Walsh’s work has made life better from millions of working Americans and will serve as a model for all future labor secretaries who truly value American working people.” We certainly wish Secretary well in all his future face-offs and also puck drops. So good luck to you Secretary Walsh and we can start the briefing.

Speaker 2 (48:32):

Okay. So question on House Oversight Committee wants to examine the US pullout from Afghanistan, a second Republican-LED investigation into the withdrawal. Does the White House plan to cooperate this investigation? How does it feel about it?

Karine Jean-Pierre (48:48):

So I’ll say this, we have been providing Congress with information on Afghanistan and the operation for this past year, so don’t have anything to add there. As you know the White House Council is very much focused on the oversight. They’re the ones who are answering questions and dealing with the letter. Certainly we’ll take a look at the letter. So I will let them speak to this.

Speaker 2 (49:11):

And what’s the status of the administration’s own internal reviews [inaudible 00:49:14] talked about this, is that ever going to be finished or released publicly?

Karine Jean-Pierre (49:18):

So don’t have any update on the review. I know that’s been asked a couple of times. I know that Jake Sullivan came and spoke to this some time ago, our National Security Advisor, just don’t have an update for you all. And once we have something to share, we certainly will provide that.

Speaker 2 (49:31):

[inaudible 00:49:33] get an update on for next week.

Karine Jean-Pierre (49:34):

I would to honestly speak to Jake Sullivan and the National Security Council Team. But I know that that’s come up a couple times here at the podium and he spoken to this. I would just have to go back to them and get some information for you.

Speaker 17 (49:46):

Thank you. Okay. Regarding Fetterman, while the President was at Walter Reed yesterday, did he by any chance see the Senator there?

Karine Jean-Pierre (49:56):

I don’t have any meetings or conversations with the Senator Fetterman to speak to at this time.

Speaker 17 (50:01):

Okay. And regarding this police officer’s charge in the death of Tyree Nichols. As you know, this is a community that’s been hurting. I was there in Memphis when the video was released, for the funeral, we saw the Vice President there. The people there want change in the policing system. Does the White House believe that that can actually happen? And also what’s the White House’s reaction to the officers pleading not guilty?

Karine Jean-Pierre (50:22):

So I want to be very mindful because it’s an ongoing case and we are always careful here when there is a criminal investigation or a case moving forward. But I’m just going to reiterate what the President has said before. And nothing can bring back Mr. Nichols back to his family and also the Memphis community. He should be alive today. And sadly, his family has to continue to mourn the death of their loved one. But we do believe, the President does believe that Mr. And Mrs. Wells and also Tyree’s son, Mr. Nichol’s son and his whole entire family deserve a swift and full and transparent investigation. And that’s what the President believes and that’s what should be called for. But I’m not going to get certainly ahead of an investigation at this time.

Speaker 17 (51:13):

Thank you.

Speaker 18 (51:16):

Has the President Biden spoken to Senator Fetterman’s wife since he-

Karine Jean-Pierre (51:21):

I don’t have any conversation to read out at this time. As you know, the President has developed a very good, close relationship with the Fettermans over the last several months. You saw the President visit Pennsylvania multiple times during the midterm elections and so they’ve gotten to know each other. I think the President and the First Lady put out a very heartfelt tweet just lifting up Senator Fetterman and what he has committed to do for himself and really speak to an issue that millions of Americans have to deal with every day. And that is incredibly courageous and brave to do. And of course, of course we wish him a speedy recovery.

Priscilla (52:05):

On the response in Ohio and the trained derailment with the hazardous materials, there’s federal officials on the ground. How long does the administration expect for those officials to stay there? And can the White House provide any assurances based on the information provided to the White House for the residents in that town?

Karine Jean-Pierre (52:21):

So as I mentioned yesterday, and as you all know, this is certainly a priority for the administration, the health and the safety of the community in East Palestine. Just a couple of things that I want to say at the top to all of you. So we have mobilized a robust, multi-agency effort to support the people of East Palestine. Ohio. EPA is helping the state test the water and air, collect soil samples, and screen homes. The Department of Transportation is helping get to the bottom of what exactly happened, what led to the derailment. FEMA has been closely coordinating with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and federal partners.

The governor said just yesterday, asked just yesterday for public health support. And today, as we have announced, and I actually talked about this yesterday, how HHS and CDC were getting involved. And today both those agency announced they’re deploying a team of medical personnel and toxicologists to conduct public health testing and assessments. So we are committed to supporting the people of Palestine every step of the way. And we are going to be on the ground helping them as long as it’s needed. And also we are going to hold Norfolk Southern accountable as well. And we’re seeing that accountability, we’re already doing that process.

Speaker 9 (53:37):

Karine, you’ve got a bunch of personnel changes happening at the White House and openings. How quickly will you be announcing nominees for the Labor Department job and to replace the Leo Brainard at the Fed? And then just in that context, there’s a report out that Carla Frank is also leaving. If you can confirm.

Karine Jean-Pierre (53:59):

Say the last part.

Speaker 9 (53:59):

Carla Frank is leaving [inaudible 00:54:03].

Karine Jean-Pierre (54:03):

Okay. Don’t have any personnel announcements to make at this time. I can say to you that under the Department of Labor statute, Julie Su will serve as an Acting Secretary, which is common. But as far as personnel announcement, I don’t have anything to share at this moment. Clearly filling those two roles are critical, and important, and a priority. Just don’t anything to share at this moment.

Speaker 9 (54:29):

Follow up, what are you looking for in a Labor Secretary? You talked about what you thought Marty Walsh brought to the job. What are you looking for your economic team? You’ve raised a lot of concerns over the last year about corporate profit taking, about just empowering unions, supporting unionization drives. Are you looking for a strong labor leader and is that something that you also would like to see in the next person to go to the Fed?

Karine Jean-Pierre (54:54):

Yeah, I think that’s a both very good questions. I’m going to leave that to the President to decide what it is that he’s looking for in those two key, critical positions. No one’s going to, no one’s going to replace Marty Walsh. He was one of a kind as I just laid out and incredibly effective. And we are very, very thankful for his service and wish him well. So don’t want to say that’s what we’re going to be looking for. But also that’s for the President to decide. As far as the President’s economic plan or how he sees the economy moving forward, you kind of see that what he’s been able to lay out these last two years. And certainly he wants to continue to build on that, continue to build on growing the economy from the bottom up, middle out. I’m not going to get into too many details there. As you know, it’s the Federal Reserve, so we’re always trying to be really mindful there. But as soon as the President has decided who’s going to be next to fill those two positions, certainly we will share that.

Speaker 6 (55:52):

Thanks Karine. To follow up on that, both the CBC and CAPAC have endorsed Julie Su to officially become the next Labor Secretary. In part because, “The inclusion of an AANHPI as a cabinet secretary is long overdue.” Is she on the President’s shortlist?

Karine Jean-Pierre (56:10):

So not going to get into who’s on the President’s short list or not. But I do want to address the fact that we recognize that it is a priority for the AAPI community. And we are proud that through our work with members of Congress and stakeholders, we’ve made the most diverse administration that ever, ever, not even in modern politics, but ever. We believe we have, and it’s facts, we believe we have a historic number of AAPI appointees at the level, including three in cabinet, all of whom are women. Which is Vice President Harris as you know, Ty as well. And so we have a number of AAPI ambassadors like Michelle Kwan and Chris Lu and it’s also about 14% of our appointees identified as Asian American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. So this is a President that has made a priority to make sure that he has an administration that looks like the country and that is incredibly diverse and historically diverse. So that is a commitment that he’s going to continue to make. I’m just not going to get ahead of the President’s decision at this time.

Speaker 6 (57:15):

And then switching topics on a topic that you brought up-

Karine Jean-Pierre (57:18):


Speaker 6 (57:19):

… With John Kirby earlier.

Karine Jean-Pierre (57:21):


Speaker 6 (57:21):

When you said that neither you or he have hit your prime yet. Does the President have anything to say about this national conversation that was sparked after a claim that was seemingly made in defense of the President? That Nikki Haley is not in her prime because women hit their prime in their 20, 30’s and 40’s?

Karine Jean-Pierre (57:45):

I’m not going to comment directly to that. That is something clearly that needs to be addressed by-

Speaker 17 (57:54):

Right. I only bring it up because you brought it up.

Karine Jean-Pierre (57:55):

No, no, no, no. I’m going to say something. Just give me a second. I have something to say. When you look at this President’s administration, and we have talked about the numbers before, there are more women in his senior advisor, in his senior staff role, than men. And I think when you think about that, you see a President that truly takes pride and takes deep and meaningful consideration, into making sure there are diverse voices around him. And I think that’s important. And so what I want to say is just watch his actions, watch what he’s done. You just asked me about Julie Su and I laid out what the president has done in having the most diverse administration. And so I think all you have to do is look at the numbers, look at the people around him, look what he’s been able to do, look how he’s lift up different communities, including women. And I’m just going to leave it there. It is clearly, truly, a priority for him and I’ll just leave it there.

Peter Alexander (59:04):

If I can ask you very quickly about that raid that took place in Eastern Syria just because John Kirby didn’t get to it. Has the President been briefed on the circumstances? Has he had any conversations with those who were wounded? Any more detail about his relationship to that event?

Karine Jean-Pierre (59:16):

So the president has been briefed. I don’t have anything more to what John Kirby just laid out. I would refer you to the Department of Defense on any specifics on who’s been wounded or any details, other details outside of what John Kirby laid out. But don’t have anything else.

Peter Alexander (59:32):

Did the President sign off on that raid? Obviously was successful as the DOD or the CENTCOM reported. Was the President a part of the decision making before it took place?

Karine Jean-Pierre (59:40):

Again, I don’t want to get into too much of specifics on this, but when it comes to situations like this, of course the President is closely involved.

Peter Alexander (59:48):

Can I ask you about the First Lady was supposed to travel to Indiana today? She didn’t go because her office says that she’s not feeling very well. Can you give us any better-

Karine Jean-Pierre (59:54):

Yeah, so-

Peter Alexander (59:55):

… It’s not Covid is she okay?

Karine Jean-Pierre (59:55):


Peter Alexander (59:57):

What’s the going on?

Karine Jean-Pierre (59:58):

I can say from here that it’s not Covid. She is under

Peter Alexander (59:59):

So it’s a cold basically.

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:00:00):

Under the weather and I’ll leave it there, but is recuperating.

Peter Alexander (01:00:04):

[inaudible 01:00:04] basically.

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:00:05):

I’m not her doctor so I’m not going to go into specifics on what it is. But I can say that she is indeed under the weather. It is not COVID. Her trip to Indiana that was supposed to happen today will be rescheduled at a later date and I’ll leave it there.

Peter Alexander (01:00:17):

Okay. Obviously we hope she gets well soon. The last question …

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:00:19):

Yes, for sure.

Peter Alexander (01:00:20):

… is about Rick Scott. As you saw, he edited his policy plan on sunsetting federal programs after five years to say it now exempts social security and Medicare. He says to the president, to Democratic and Republican leaders, that it was never intended to refer to Social Security and Medicare. The White House is viewed. Does that end this conversation? Is the discussion over this issue done?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:00:43):

What do you think? I thought you would ask this question, so I have a couple of things to say to the senator. I’ll first say this, that the president congratulates Senator Scott on joining the post State of the Union red wave as we have seen from Republicans, acknowledging that they are in fact been attempting to put Medicare and social security on the chopping block, because that’s what they are actually saying, that they were indeed attempting to do that. We have the facts. The past year, he has explained the absence of an exception by saying if it’s worth keeping, we’re going to keep it. But make no mistake, his true colors are undeniable and on the record, they have been speaking at both sides of their ballots here. That’s what republicans in the Senate and Congress more broadly have been doing.

Cutting Medicaid and social security benefits is a longstanding passion of Senator Scotts as it is for majority of the House Republicans who compromise the Republican Study Committee and many of his Senate colleagues ranging from John Thune and to Ron Johnson. And so for example, in 1990s, Senator Scott supported fully privatizing Medicare. And let’s not forget, just weeks ago, they all said and we’re saying that they wanted to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. By doing that, certainly, it would be one of the biggest cut to Medicare benefits if you were to do that. Let’s not forget, the Inflation Reduction Act actually cuts down the deficit by $200 billion. We thank Senator Scott for continue to share his heart with the world. You know? With that, I’ll just leave it there. I’m going to go to the back of the [inaudible 01:02:25] here. Yeah. Yeah.

Peter Alexander (01:02:25):

[inaudible 01:02:26].

Speaker 19 (01:02:28):

Thank you Karine. I wanted to ask about the situation in Ohio. One thing that I don’t know has been mentioned in the list of agencies that are involved, and maybe it’s because you don’t have visibility into it, is the Department of Justice. Is the effort to hold Norfolk’s Southern accountable also extend to potential criminal liability or has that been ruled out based on the fact that DOJ is not on the list of agencies?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:02:58):

As you know, there is an investigation underway, but we have done some things to hold Norfolk Southern accountable. Just a couple of things. EPA has secured Norfolk Southern’s commitment to cover, to cover all the cleanup costs, which is incredibly important, and they’re requiring the railroad to document the release of hazardous containments. There is also an active, as I said, investigation underway. Once the investigation is complete, the federal government will use all available and appropriate authorities to ensure accountability and prove all safety. So let’s get the investigation going, see where it takes us. But already we are making sure that they are being held into account.

Speaker 19 (01:03:36):

The balloons and the objects … sort of more of a domestic question. Does this review or the effort to come up with this guidance and the intelligence regarding future shoot-down protocols? Is there anything that extends to the FAA regarding who may be required to file a flight plan or anything sort of for the public that people who may have small aircraft may need to do going forward?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:04:04):

It’s a very good question. I’m just going to allow the process to continue and as soon as we have parameters put forth, we certainly will share what we’re able to. Some of the information that will be provided by this inter-agency team will be classified and we want to make sure that we’ll protect that. And so I’m just going to let the team do it’s work and we’ll provide more information as soon as we have it.

Speaker 20 (01:04:32):

Thank you, so asking about credit card debt, a New York Federal Reserve study now shows that America’s credit card debt reached a record level. It also shows that delinquencies are up with that credit card debt as well as delinquencies on auto loans. Is the president concerned that we’re seeing a crack in the economic foundation because of inflation?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:04:52):

Just two things about that particular report. The report does not just measure borrowing. It measures credit card balances, including spending that it’s paid off every month. That’s important to note. And also, further, credit card balances relative to take home pay are lower and than they were pre-pandemic. Those are two things that are important to take to account and let’s not forget, as you know, there are other indicators that we also look at, which is really important. The household net worth is 23% above pre-pandemic level. 51% fewer Americans are entering bankruptcy than before the pandemic.

Mortgage auto and credit card delinquencies are below pre-pandemic levels. In fact, mortgage delinquencies are near record lows since the start of the data in 2003, and over the last few years we’ve seen credit card scores threaten an expansion of credit. We also have to look at the other indicators. And so just wanted to make sure that, and I know you do as well, but want to make sure that we point that out too.

Speaker 20 (01:05:53):

So the president doesn’t see weakness then in the overall overall economy?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:05:55):

No. If anything, I just mentioned where we are. I mean, if you look at past indicators that I just laid out, whether it’s household, whether it’s mortgage delinquency, we are at levels that we were pre-pandemic. And so I think that matters. And let’s not forget we’re talking about the economy moment ago. A lot of that is because of the work that this president has done on the economy, because of his economic policy, because he makes sure that no one is left behind, because he came in at a time where the economy was tanking and was able to turn that around and grow the economy.

I think if you’re looking at the indicators and you’re seeing levels pre- pandemic, I think that matters. And so we’re going to look at all the indicators and make sure we point out what, as you’re asking me about this credit card debt record reached record, there are two things that has just laid out, which it does not measure. And so that’s also very important to take into account. [inaudible 01:06:47].

Speaker 21 (01:06:47):

That’s great. Speaking of the economy, the Congressional Hispanic caucus today sent the letter to the president, urging him to point Hispanic American to feel the vacancy left by Fed vice chair Lael Brainardd. Is that something he’s considering? Do we have a timetable yet as to when he’ll nominate someone?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:07:06):

Yeah, my answer is going to be similar to what I gave Andrea, which is, I’m not going to get ahead of the president on this at this moment. Clearly it’s an important vacancy that the president is going to make a priority to fill, but just not going to get ahead on what the criteria is going to be, who it’s going to be, who’s on the short list, not on the short list. I’m just going to let the president decide.

Speaker 21 (01:07:24):

And separately, are there any plans for the president to visit Ohio in light of the train wreck?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:07:29):

As you know, the EPA administrator, Regan, was there. He held a press conference just over 24 hours ago, while he was in East Palestine. I just don’t have anything to share about the president’s schedule. As you know, he’ll be in Poland the beginning of next week.

Speaker 6 (01:07:44):

Good, thanks Karine. Just a follow-up on the social security stuff as it relates to the debt ceiling. Recently, HHS announced some proposed rates for Medicare Advantage that would result in a $3 billion reduction to the program. I know Becerra pushed back on that characterization, but can you explain? How does it square with the president’s commitment not to cut Medicare or are there cost saving measures in there somehow in the broader program that you wouldn’t characterize as a cut if it’s a cost saving measure?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:08:22):

I mean, I’m not going to go beyond to what the secretary Becerra said. What he said is basically where the president is. I want to be very careful here because, as you know, the president’s going to put forth his budget on March 9th and he’ll talk about what he thinks is fiscally responsible and put forth a budget that’s fiscally responsible. He mentioned this in the State of the Union. He’s going to talk about how he’s going to continue to lower the deficit by $2 trillion. You guys will see the specifics of that budget when it comes out.

Let’s not forget, the president also lowered the deficit the first two years by $1.7 trillion. All of that is important as the president is growing the economy and making sure that no one is left behind, that he’s also lowering the deficit. He’s doing that with these very historic pieces of legislation that we have seen him signed into law this past two years. But I want to be very clear. When it comes to protecting Medicare when it comes to social security, the president’s going to continue to fight to make sure that those are not being held hostage by the Republican Party, to make sure that we are fighting for programs that taxpayers, pardon me, pay into.

We’re talking about veterans, we’re talking about seniors. This is something that the president has been very clear about. He talked about it this week. He talked about it at the State of the Union. We need to make sure those programs, those lifesaving programs, for many Americans, millions of Americans, are not played with just what Republicans are trying to do. I just laid out moments ago how Republicans have been talking about for years, for years, how they want to cut those really key programs for our veterans, for our seniors. The president, again is going to continue to fight for those.

Speaker 6 (01:10:12):

Thank you.

Speaker 2 (01:10:12):

Thank you. Earlier today, when the White House released some background information on Ohio, one thing that was said by officials is that if Norfolk Southern backed off the commitment to pay for cleanup, then the administration would be prepared to issue a legally binding order to get reimbursed three times the amount. I’m wondering if that was just like a warning or if there has been an indication thus far, a recent indication from the company, that they could back off that commitment.

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:10:41):

I don’t have any indication that they are backing off of that. I just laid out how that EPA is requiring, or the company has committed to cover all cleanup costs. That is something that EPA has worked very hard on and is making sure that the company is doing. From what I understand, they are going to do that. As I said before, there is an investigation underway and we’ll know more, but I don’t have any indication of what you just laid out.

Speaker 2 (01:11:09):

Also, it was also said that a CDC team, as you were saying, was being dispatched that they’re going to be on the ground on Monday. I’m hoping you can kind of explain for people just why they’re only hitting the ground on Monday, so why it’s not happening actually now, but also why that didn’t happen. This has been going on for a couple weeks now. [inaudible 01:11:29]-

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:11:28):

Well, I want to be very clear. On February 4th, we had folks on the ground within hours.

Speaker 2 (01:11:35):

The EPA team.

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:11:35):

Yeah, yeah. EPA team. But this matters. Right? This happened on February 3rd. On 2:00 AM on February 4th, hours after the derailment, the EPA team was on the ground. I just want to make sure that the American people understand that we did take action and folks were on the ground. It is like multiple federal agency. Again, we’re on the ground, not just the EPA within the hours. It is also important to remember that it was a serious accident, and so when these incidents happen, you need to let the emergency response take place. That is important as well.

Senior leader leadership arriving in those initial days would detract from those urgent response efforts. And when it was appropriate, the EPA administrator went as you saw him yesterday, and additional agency office officials, as you just mentioned, HHS, CDC, will be visiting soon. But the work is happening. We’ve been on the ground again since February 4th hours after the derailment happened. We are committed. We are committed. The federal government is committed to making sure that the community gets what it needs and will be there on the ground for as long as it takes.

Speaker 14 (01:12:44):

Kirby mentioned humanitarian assistance when he was talking about the president’s trip, but obviously the president has talked so much recently about the US security assistance to Ukraine. Last year, when he was in Poland, he met with refugees. That was a big part of his message there. How much of this trip will be about that side of it? Will he meet with refugees? Will you add some component like that for this trip?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:13:04):

Sure. I’m not going to get ahead of what we’ve laid out. He’ll be in Warsaw, as you know. He’s going to make a major speech and he wanted to do this ahead of the anniversary. As you all know, the anniversary will be a week from today, of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine. Don’t have anything else in any further details to share on that.

He mentioned the Eastern flank, which is incredibly important to be there to show our commitment, our commitment to Ukraine, but also our NATO alliance. That’s what you’re going to hear from the president. Don’t have anything more to share on any humanitarian aid or security assistance. Clearly, we have done a lot over this past year and there continues to be bipartisan support as you look at that assistance. We will always share that with you when we’re ready to announce more. But certainly, I’m not going to get ahead of the president from here today. Okay. I’m going to take one more.

Speaker 23 (01:13:59):

[inaudible 01:14:00].

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:14:00):

Oh gosh.

Speaker 23 (01:14:00):

[inaudible 01:14:02].

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:14:01):

I’ll take one more. One more. On more. [inaudible 01:14:05] Alex. [inaudible 01:14:07] Alex [inaudible 01:14:08].

Speaker 22 (01:14:08):

Thank you, Karine. 31 Democrats joined with Republicans to vote against revisions to the DC crime bill, and now that heads to the Senate. Obviously, because the margins are narrower, they could reject those divisions as well. I know this administration supports DC’s statehood and sovereignty. At the same time, what does it make of the debate over the revisions to the crime bill and just the issues with public safety in the nation’s capital?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:14:42):

Just because you mentioned the House Republican, I just have to say this on the record, it is yet another clear example of why. As you just mentioned, DC deserves statehood. That is something that the president has supported since his campaign and will continue to do so. As it relates to the DC crime bill itself … look, the president has never been clear that we must do more to reduce crime and save lives. And that’s why he’s taken those executive actions that he’s done the last two years. He outlined, as you all know, the Safer America Plan.

The President believes that making our communities safer requires a couple of things. Funding the police and promo, promoting effective prosecution of crimes affecting families today, from gun crimes, to carjackings, to fentanyl trafficking, investing in crime prevention including drug courts, mental health, substance use disorder services, human homeless services, summer jobs, and mentoring for teenagers and young adults. And so all of these things, community violence interventions and a fairer criminal justice system, that is something that the president is going to continue to push.

The third and last thing I’ll lay out is taking additional common sense steps on guns to keep dangerous firearms out of dangerous hands, including assault weapons ban, which is something that you heard the president talk about just last week. Look, the President has put forth a plan, a Safer America Plan to make sure that our communities are indeed safe. He’s taken actions the last two years and he’ll continue to do that. And so I’ll just leave it there for now. Thanks everybody.

Speaker 22 (01:16:14):

Thank you.

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:16:14):

See you next week. See some of you in Poland.

Speaker 22 (01:16:16):

Thank you. [inaudible 01:16:19].

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