May 22, 2023
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 5/16/23 Transcript
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 5/16/23. Read the transcript here.
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How you doing, Kelly?
Speaker 3 (00:00):
Oh, Chip. Hello.
Speaker 4 (00:05):
Speaker 2 (00:06):
Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Monday. Okay, I’m just going to get… Is it Tuesday? Holy cow. Happy Tuesday.
Speaker 1 (00:19):
We also lost track every day.
Speaker 2 (00:19):
Oh my gosh. Time is… All right, it’s Tuesday. Happy Tuesday everybody. Okay, we’re just going to get straight to it. As you know, we’re going to do a trip preview for the president’s upcoming OCONUS trip. The admiral’s here to do that preview, so I’m just going to invite him straight away.
John Kirby (00:34):
How y’all doing today? Okay. I think as you know, tomorrow President Biden will be heading to Hiroshima, Japan to participate in the G7. Since president took office, revitalizing our alliances and partnerships and reestablishing America’s leadership around the world has been one of his top priorities. Thanks to no small part to his hard work, during the G7 you’ll see that our allies and partners are more united than ever.
Over the last 15 months, the G7 has stood in solidarity with Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, rallying the world to support Ukraine and cutting Putin off from the key technologies and financing around the globe. That solidarity with Ukraine is even stronger now than it was last year, and you’ll see concrete action to further isolate Russia and weaken its ability to wage its brutal war. And of course, this display of unity will extend to other key economic and security issues as well.
G7 leaders will demonstrate that we share a common approach to the challenges posed by the PRC, an approach that is grounded in common values. And we will also rally the world… We will also rally around the need for bold action to accelerate the clean energy transition, including by making President Biden’s economic agenda a blueprint for G7 action to address the climate crisis and create good jobs.
Finally, we will present an affirmative agenda to take further action to support developing countries around the world. That means we’re going to showcase how we are scaling President Biden and the G7’s flagship infrastructure initiative, a Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, otherwise called PGII, which has attracted major investors to better respond to the global demand for high quality infrastructure financing. And we will reaffirm our commitment to help institutions like the World Bank evolve so that they can more effectively address global challenges that directly affect its core mission of poverty reduction, including climate change.
Now, the president will also have an opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Kishida on the margins, where they will discuss ways to further strengthen our mutual security, economic multilateral cooperation, and of course, look for ways to continue to improve our alliance with Japan. And he will also have the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the other members of the quad, Prime Minister Modi of India and Prime Minister Albanese of Australia as well. So, a very packed agenda here for the G7. President’s looking forward to getting out there and having those discussions, and again, showing how united the G7 really is around a common range of security challenges and opportunities.
Speaker 2 (02:59):
Go ahead [inaudible 00:03:01].
Speaker 5 (03:00):
Question there. You mentioned the president’s going to meet the quad leaders in Japan. Does that reflect the change to the back half of the trip, that he’s not going to go to Australia anymore?
John Kirby (03:10):
Would’ve had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Albanese anyway at the G7. I don’t have any additional changes or additional schedule items to speak to today. We’re working through, thinking through the rest of the trip right now.
Speaker 5 (03:27):
And then, so the rest of the trip is now up in the air because the negotiating [inaudible 00:03:32]
John Kirby (03:31):
What I can speak to is the G7 and going to Hiroshima. The president’s looking forward to that. We’re taking a look at the rest of the trip.
Speaker 5 (03:40):
And this is a substantive question there. Can you speak a little bit about the implications of the debt limit showdown here at home on the president’s credibility on the global stage, how can you rally the world if he can’t rally lawmakers here in Washington? That’s something as simple as, and fundamental as the [inaudible 00:04:00] credit of the United States. What message does that send abroad?
John Kirby (04:03):
These leaders, all leaders of democracies, they understand and want, they respect American leadership on the world stage. And they know that our ability to pay our debts is a key part of US credibility and leadership around the world. And so, they understand that the president also has to focus on making sure that we don’t default and having these conversations with congressional leaders and he’ll be able to do that and have his team do that while we’re at the G7. But these leaders of all around the world understand how important American credibility and leadership is and that’s why they understand how important it is that the president stay on top of this issue. We wouldn’t even be having this discussion about the effect of the debt ceiling debate on the trip if Congress would do its job and raise the debt ceiling the way they’ve always done.
Admiral, typically when you do a trip preview, you talk about all the planned stops and there were other stops, Papua New Guinea and Australia-
John Kirby (05:10):
… that have been announced, you did not do that. Is the president calling Prime Minister Albanese? Is he doing something that would perhaps lead to a change in the itinerary? Should we anticipate that?
John Kirby (05:23):
It’s difficult for me to tell you exactly what to anticipate at this point, Kelly. As I said, we’re reevaluating the rest of the trip right now. I can speak to Hiroshima, I can speak to the G7. We’re evaluating the rest of the trip. And as you might expect, should there be changes made or need to be made to the rest of the trip, we will absolutely make proper notification.
And there were some calls from Republicans in both the House and the Senate for the President to adjust his foreign travel due to the debt ceiling issue. And should we assume that that is the reasoning for this reevaluation?
John Kirby (05:58):
No, you should assume that, first of all, we’re going to the G7 and we’re looking forward to that. It’s an important forum for a lot of important issues that I just detailed. And given where we are right now, it’s also incredibly prudent and responsible for the president to take a look at the rest of the trip and evaluate whether it makes sense going forward. Again, when we have something to speak to, we certainly will. But the President of the United States can do both things. He can travel overseas and manage our foreign policy and our defense policy and look after our national security commitments in an important region like the Indo-Pacific, and also work with congressional leaders to do the right thing, raise the debt ceiling, avoid default so that the United States credibility here at home and overseas is preserved.
Well, thank you. In essence, you’re sort of teasing us here over what could transpire in the next two hours? This meeting doesn’t go well, he’s not going to Australia, that’s what seems to be what you’re saying?
John Kirby (06:58):
I’m not teasing anything, Ed. I’m just trying to tell you what’s going on. And what’s going on right now, is we’re hopping on Air Force One tomorrow and we’re heading to Japan, and we’re going to have a good meeting at the G7 and we’re going to evaluate the rest of the trip and we’ll see what happens, we’ll see where things go.
Well, what would cause you to not go to Australia then?
John Kirby (07:13):
I’m not going to get into a hypothetical. I think we’re going to evaluate where the situation is here and make a determination relatively soon.
On Japan, many previous American presidents have been pressured or asked to apologize for the US using a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Does the president plan to do that when in Japan, or make any comments at all?
John Kirby (07:39):
The president plans to visit the memorial and to pay his respects to the lives of the innocent who were killed in the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. But the focus of the trip, Ed, is what I just talked about in my opening statement. It’s about the future. It’s about getting the G7 together to talk about some common challenges and opportunities and to lay out the framework down to address those challenges and opportunities together. And I think you’re going to see that in the readouts and the discussions after each of these meetings.
Speaker 2 (08:14):
Sorry, I’ll take something in the background.
Speaker 6 (08:15):
Thank you on Africa…. Good to see you. The president has explicitly acknowledged Africa’s role in the world and in accomplishing and facing global challenges. And I’ve heard you say several times already this week that the leaders of the G7 will be talking about some initiative about how to work with other regions to face global challenges. Could you speak a little bit more about that and Africa’s role, where leaders minds will be focused and what they’ll interrogate further on this? Thanks.
John Kirby (08:48):
I talked about that a little bit in the opening statement when I talked about the PGII, the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. As a practical and useful
John Kirby (09:00):
… And quite frankly, a more effective alternative to some of the infrastructure and investment programs that other nations have been trying to sell on the continent. Many nations on the continent are realizing that those opportunities, those financial deals are not necessarily all that they’re cracked up to be. The PGII represents an alternative and we’ve already seen, since the president spearheaded this at the last G7, we’ve already seen millions and millions and millions of dollars of investment through PGII into some of these lower and middle income countries on the continent and beyond and so we’re looking forward to advancing that here at the G7, the next G7.
Go ahead, Nadia.
Hi John, I want to ask you about Lebanon. Does the administration support the French judge decision to issue a arrest warrant against the head of Central Bank, Mr. Riad Salameh. Since administration always wanted transparency in Lebanon and we always pushed for anti-corruption laws and regulations.
John Kirby (10:08):
That’s really for the French to speak to.
Do you support this?
John Kirby (10:12):
Do you support the decision that holding him accountable, the head of the central bank who’s been accused of corruption and you’ve been calling for Lebanon to fight corruption. Now they’re indicting him, why can’t you support that decision?
John Kirby (10:28):
It is a French decision to speak to. Look, of course all around the world we speak out against corruption and try to hold leaders accountable as best we can. That I think that goes without saying. But in this particular case, I’m going to have to point you to the French authorities. This is for them to speak to.
Thanks. Hey John. You said a few moments ago that the president can do two things at once. You can do foreign policy, you can do domestic policy. You guys have said repeatedly before that the president can be president anywhere, so why then would he cancel part of his trip?
John Kirby (10:59):
I didn’t say he was canceling part of his trip.
No, but you said you’re reevaluating it.
John Kirby (11:02):
I said we’re reevaluating, but there’s not been a cancellation as yet, but that could happen. We’ll see where it goes. I think to the gist of your question is the President often has to make tough decisions about how and where he is going to spend his time. As I think we’ve also made clear, and Karine has made clear a gazillion times up here, how seriously the President takes this priority about defaulting on the national debt and what that says about the United States, not just here at home but around the world and how that can affect our own international reputation. Because there’s countries like Russia and China that would love nothing more than for us to default so they could point the finger and say, you see, the United States is not a stable, reliable partner.
That is a high priority as it should be for the President. Look, we’re going to reevaluate here the rest of the week after the G7 and we’ll see where it goes. If the trip gets truncated or changed or modified in any way, it should be nothing more than a statement of the President putting his priorities where he believes they need to be. Again, I want to stay. We wouldn’t have to have this conversation, I wouldn’t have to answer these questions if Congress just did the right thing.
Well, and to that point though, you guys have been building up this trip, the Papua New Guinea, the historical significance of that. The quad and the extent to which it shows the importance of US leadership in the Indo-Pacific at a moment of tensions with China. If you were to cancel that portion of the trip, what message would that send to the region and about the United States commitment to leadership in the Indo-Pacific.
John Kirby (12:41):
I think I answered that question before. Again, I don’t want to get ahead of where we are, but modifying an overseas trip to deal with this particular issue, an issue which is central to our international standing around the world, that’s the message. That we understand how important it is that the United States not only say we are, but prove we are a reliable, stable, strong partner for our allies and partners around the world. That stems from, and the president understands this, it stems from the reliability of our ability to pay our debts.
Speaker 7 (13:20):
Thank you so much, Karine. Hi, John. What’s going to be President Biden’s message to the G7 leaders who are worried about the possibility of unprecedented default in the United States and also another topic discussed here in DC today. Do you want this page that will discuss artificial intelligence and also the ChatGPT during the meetings there? How can the US work with other countries on this matter?
John Kirby (13:50):
On your first question, the president’s message to the G7 will continue to be, as I said to Jeremy, that the United States is a strong, reliable partner and that he’s working hard to get the debt ceiling raised as it should be because he understands the importance of that to our international reputation and our credibility and that they don’t need to worry about that part of it.
Look, as I said in my opening statement, it wasn’t just some accidental line I threw in there. Since day one the president has focused on revitalizing our vast alliances and our network of partnerships. No other nation in the world enjoys that network the way the United States does. The president has put an awful lot of personal capital into revitalizing those partnerships and just look what that has done. Just pick one thing. Look at Ukraine. The convening power of the United States under President Biden and what we’ve been able to do internationally for Ukraine. That needs to continue. Ukraine will be on the agenda of course. That will be the president’s message.
Now, as for AI and the chat function, sorry, I don’t know if that specific application’s going to come up, but you can expect that in the course of the discussions that they won’t be having, that these leaders will have a chance to talk about science and technology and the importance of appropriate behavior in that space.
Okay, couple more.
Speaker 7 (15:23):
Just very quickly follow up, okay.
We’re running out of time.
Speaker 7 (15:26):
Speaker 5 (15:27):
Reuters has reporting showing that the G7 countries are set to discuss concern about China’s use of economic coercion and its dealings abroad and that’s going to be part of the larger joint statement that will be released in Japan. Wondering if you can confirm that.
John Kirby (15:41):
The PRC and managing that competition with them as well as dealing with the full scope of challenges that the PRC presents in the Indo-Pacific region will absolutely be on the agenda for the G7. As I said in my opening statement, I think you can expect to hear at the end of those discussions that all the G7 leaders are of a common mind about how to deal with the challenges that the PRC presents. I won’t get ahead of what’s going to be said after those discussions, but it absolutely will be on the agenda and I absolutely think you’ll see at the end of it that the G7 nations are all like-minded.
Speaker 5 (16:19):
Economic portion specifically will be a part of it?
John Kirby (16:21):
I think they’re going to talk about the broad scope of course of activities by the PRC and economics is certainly a part of that. Yes, that will be part of the discussion, but so will be the security coercion that we see coming out of the PRC, whether it’s in the East China Sea, whether it’s in Taiwan Strait, or the South China Sea. All that will be discussed.
Go ahead, Steven.
Thanks. John, I want to ask you about a developing story. We’re just now hearing reports about an American convoy in Nigeria coming under attack. What can you tell us about it?
John Kirby (16:45):
Don’t know a whole lot, I just got informed about that here before coming on out to talk to you all. It does look like US convoy vehicles was attacked. What I can tell you is that no US citizens were involved and therefore there were no US citizens hurt. We are aware of some casualties, perhaps even some killed, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of where we are right now. It just happened and the state department’s looking into this.
Speaker 8 (17:15):
Given the number of questions you’ve taken on the debt limit here as it relates to the G7, how much do you expect that issue to kind of cast the shadow over these conversations? I mean, do you expect the president to answer questions about the process and the fallout and what may happen if with G7 leaders?
John Kirby (17:31):
Look, I’m not going to speak for other G7 leaders and what they may or may not want to ask the president, but we do not expect that this will, to use your phrase, overshadow the G7. There’s an awful lot on the agenda. I just walked you through it. These are several full days of discussions about real meaningful issues to our national security and to that of our G7 partners. I do not believe, I do not expect that this is going to dominate the discussion.
Go ahead, Jojo.
Can you comment
… on the report that a US Patriot battery system may have been damaged in Ukraine in the latest Russian missile barrage?
John Kirby (18:07):
I cannot. No.
So if it were damaged, would the Ukrainians be able to repair it on their own, or would the US have to-
John Kirby (18:14):
First of all, I can’t confirm the reports, but it would depend on the scope of the damage as to whether or not it could be repaired by the Ukrainians or whether we might need to help them. I think you know that even particularly in howitzers, oftentimes, howitzers are an artillery piece, firing artillery round, and many of them have been damaged in the fighting or just worn out by the fighting. Some were able to be repaired on site. Some, we assisted the Ukrainians with repairs outside Ukraine. I just can’t speak to this. But obviously, if there was damage done to a Patriot system that needed to be repaired outside Ukraine, we would certainly assist with that. I just can’t confirm it.
Speaker 9 (18:57):
The video that the US has released asking Russian intelligence to share its secrets with the United States… Why now? Why would any Russian share that kind of information, and what safety assurances is the US offering?
John Kirby (19:14):
You’re talking about the video that the CIA released?
Speaker 9 (19:17):
John Kirby (19:17):
That’s not uncommon for them to do this, for one thing. They look for recruits, same as the US Navy does. So it’s not uncommon for them to use video as an opportunity to see if they can encourage others to help them out. I’d refer you to CIA to speak to the efficacy of that process and that program, but it’s not atypical for them to do that. Frankly, it’d be irresponsible if they weren’t doing that.
Speaker 9 (19:47):
Are you offering safety assurances, though? Why would-
John Kirby (19:47):
I’d refer you to the CIA to speak to the details of the program.
Speaker 10 (19:49):
Japan is very much hoping that the US will join the TPP. Is there any thought of that coming up?
John Kirby (19:55):
I don’t have anything on the agenda with respect to TPP to speak to.
Speaker 10 (19:59):
This time, will you have a little chance to visit Japan? Last time, you didn’t get to get out of the hotel.
John Kirby (20:04):
Me? Are you going to visit Japan, Karine?
Karine Jean-Pierre (20:09):
Yeah, hopefully. We’ll see. Be busy. We’ll be very busy. Okay, we have to wrap this up. Anita, you have the last question.
Speaker 11 (20:15):
Thank you so much John. First of all, we just heard South African president Cyril Ramaphosa say that both President Zelenskyy and Putin have agreed to six-party talks with African leaders aimed at hammering out a peace deal. Just wondering how the White House feels about in Ukraine.
John Kirby (20:29):
The peace deal? Yeah, look, I’ll say what I’ve said before. We would welcome any credible peace proposal put forward even by a third party or third parties.
Speaker 11 (20:41):
Even from a country who’s-
John Kirby (20:42):
Hang on, let me finish.
Speaker 11 (20:45):
… commander of the armed forces is in Russia right now meeting with ground forces?
John Kirby (20:49):
We would support any third party peace proposal as long as it can be seen as credible, enforceable, and sustainable. And for those three things to be in the case, it’s got to be supported by President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people. Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. I’ve said it a million times. We’ll keep saying it. We’re not poo-pooing other peace proposal opportunities as long as they can be credible and sustainable and enforceable. And again, that means that the Ukrainians have to be a hundred percent behind it, and it has to start with the Ukrainian perspectives. It has to start with the UN charter being a foundational element. And it has to start with President Zelenskyy’s support and his 10-point proposal at least referencing and be a part of that frame. So that’s where we are.
Karine Jean-Pierre (21:41):
One more person. Go ahead. Go ahead, sir.
Speaker 12 (21:42):
Thank you so much. Situation in Pakistan has gotten worse from the last time that we spoke. Last time you said that the US does want to see a stable Pakistan.
John Kirby (21:52):
Of course we do.
Speaker 12 (21:54):
Things are getting from bad to worse. Anything to update about that? And second question-
John Kirby (21:59):
When you say bad to worse, what are you referring to exactly?
Speaker 12 (22:01):
7,000 political party workers have been arrested. Journalists are missing. I mean, this is all happening. Supreme Court, there was yesterday a protest in front of the Supreme Court.
John Kirby (22:15):
We want to see Pakistan be a success, and we want to see Pakistan, the government, live up to the strongest aspirations of the Pakistani people. Pakistan is an important partner in the region. They’re suffering from the threat of terrorism every single day. And we’re mindful of the challenges that they’re facing politically and economically as well. And in the United States, they’ll continue to find a good friend. Thanks.
Karine Jean-Pierre (22:38):
Thank you so much, Admiral. Appreciate it. Okay, we have a couple minutes left Zeke.
Speaker 5 (22:45):
So the president, over the weekend, made a bit of news when he said that he was open to discussing work requirements as part of this negotiation with Republicans that’s underway. So can you clarify exactly what the president is negotiating on here, particularly when it comes to work requirements. He’s under fire from a lot of Democrats right now on the Hill.
Karine Jean-Pierre (23:04):
Also as the president said on Sunday, he will not accept proposals that take away people’s health care, health coverage. So that is incredibly important to the president. He’s been very consistent about that as we’ve been having conversations with Republicans or kind of the back and forth with Republicans as it relates to health coverage. And look, MAGA Republicans have been attacking, as you know, Affordable Care Act. That’s been for many years now. They’ve tried over and over again to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and trying to take away health care from hardworking families. And again, four years now. And so clearly they haven’t given up. And so that’s what the president was speaking to. The bill, as you all know, threatens the health care for 21 million Americans. 21 million Americans. So the president has said, just for years, but specifically the past couple of months, that he’s going to continue to fight for health care, a fight for Americans and American families to make sure that they have that health care. And that’s what he was specifically speaking to.
Speaker 12 (24:08):
So the president though is willing to discuss work requirements when it comes to TANF but not for Medicaid or SNAP? That’s what we’re talking about here.
Karine Jean-Pierre (24:12):
So look, when you think about the work requirements, that’s something he voted for back in the 1990s. So it’s been around for some time, clearly. Their program already have work requirements and still have that because of the law today. So just want to make that really clear. What we are talking about is making sure that something that the president has been pretty consistent about for these past several months is continuing to fight for health care coverage.
Speaker 12 (24:37):
[inaudible 00:24:37] with this because what we’re discussing right now is negotiating with Congressional Republicans that they want done in order to raise the debt limit by this deadline at the first of the next month. So how are you not negotiating about the debt limit if you’re negotiating about something that’s contingent on them agreeing to raise the debt limit?
Karine Jean-Pierre (24:53):
No, I hear you. We are, right now, having a conversation, negotiating on the budget. That’s what the president has been very clear about. We want to go back to regular order and talk about appropriations. That’s what we have. And we’ve been very clear that the debt limit needs to be taken care of. Congress needs to do their constitutional duty. And if you think about it, Republicans, MAGA Republicans have laid out how they see the vision for the American people when it speaks to the budget. And so we’ve been very clear about that, that 22% cut that they want to do to health care. Just talked about the 21 million Americans, right? The cut that they want to do to veterans. All of those things are conversations that his team, and the teams of the four congressional leaders, they’ve been having for the past couple of day on the budget, on how we move forward with the budget. Yeah.
Speaker 5 (25:44):
Thanks, Karine. Vice President Harris was not in the room last week when the president met with McCarthy and Congressional leaders, but she will be there today. Can you tell us why she’s part of this meeting and the role she’s playing, and whether or not she’s going to step in over the next couple of days when the president is traveling overseas and take on a bigger role in his absence?
Karine Jean-Pierre (26:01):
So, look, the vice president… This is not about the president’s trip to Asia, so just want to be very clear. And I said this last week. She has been a partner in this. She has been consulted multiple times on the budget, on preventing default. This is something that the president clearly respects her view. And for this meeting, he wants her to be part of this meeting so they can continue to consult. But now, of course, she’ll be part of the meeting with the four Congressional meetings. Look, he wants her input in this. And that’s what we’re going to see with this meeting today.
Speaker 5 (26:38):
But will she step in while he’s overseas and do meetings? What might she be doing now while he’s in Japan?
Karine Jean-Pierre (26:44):
Well, look, the vice president is a close advisor. She’s a partner to the president. That has been consistent the last two years. That’s what you’re going to continue to see. And she’s been part of this process throughout these conversations about the budget, about not
Karine Jean-Pierre (27:00):
…defaulting, so that is not going to change. And as I’ve said, as my colleague just said moments ago, the President could be president anywhere. He can do the work of the American people abroad, and certainly he does it every day here when we’re in the White House. So that’s not going to change. As we know, every president has said this before this president, he can be a president everywhere. Go ahead Joey.
Yeah, thank you. What is the White House’s response to concerns already expressed from progressive Democrats that that President Biden is giving too many concessions and does ceiling talks with Republicans. Zeke noted the consideration of expanded work requirements for some federal aid, the future spending caps on discretionary funds that has been discussed as well as permit reform. All this we’re hearing is coming out of these debt ceiling talks.
Karine Jean-Pierre (27:48):
I’m going to be very careful. I’m not going to negotiate from the podium. As you know, there’s going to be a meeting very, very shortly that the President’s going to have with the four leaders and also the President’s team and the congressional members, their team, have been meeting for the past several days. And it’s been, as we see it, very productive. This is a president who has been around the block a few times when you think about negotiations. He knows how to make deals, he knows how this works and there’s no one more experienced in knowing how to get this done. And if you look at the record of this president, if you think about the inflation reduction act of the last two years, you think about the gun safety legislation, you think about the PACT Act, you think about the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, that’s clearly now law. Those are things that shows that the president understands how to get through these negotiations, how to bring people to the table. And that’s what you’re going to continue to see from this president, at least today. We’ll see what happens. Okay.
Speaker 13 (28:45):
Thanks Karine. I just wanted to ask what you guys felt about some of the timing that has been discussed with Republicans saying that a deal would need to be completed by this weekend. Obviously the president knows Congress well. Do you agree with that timing? Do you feel there’s more time?
Karine Jean-Pierre (29:04):
We’ve been very clear, when it comes to the debt limit, that’s something that should have been done a while ago. We’ve been very clear about that. The fact that Republicans in Congress, MAGA Republicans are threatening default, holding our economy hostage, that shouldn’t be, that is not regular order. That is not what is supposed to be happening. We’ve done it 78 times since 1960. And so this should have been done sometime ago. And so if they are so concerned about the timeline, then they should get to work and do their constitutional duty.
Speaker 13 (29:38):
Do you feel like there is a chance, or how much of a chance is there that you guys could reach an agreement by the weekend? Obviously the president would be in Asia, but do you have any level of confidence that you could finish by this weekend?
Karine Jean-Pierre (29:52):
I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. The president is going to be meeting with congressional members in next 15, 20 minutes. The way that we see this process going, as you asked me about a deadline, a timeline, it should be done right now. Sooner the better. We should get this done. There’s no reason for Congress to wait any longer to do their job. There’s no reason to be waiting. And just a couple more. We heard from economists, the urgency from economists, business leaders including small business leaders across the country and more CEOs. We’ve heard from them saying how catastrophic this could be if Republicans get their way. So Congress needs to prevent default and they need to do it before the X date. And that is critical and that is key and that is important to do. Go ahead Jeremy.
Thanks Karine. Last week when the president met with the congressional leaders, most folks emerged from that meeting saying, “This is essentially both sides restating their positions, not much progress was made.” Can you set expectations for today? How much progress do you expect to be made? Do you think that there will be more progress than there was last week?
Karine Jean-Pierre (30:51):
I’m not going to get ahead of this meeting, certainly not going to get ahead of what’s going to come out of it. I will say this, when you think about the four leaders, what they came out and said, three of the four said that we needed to avoid default. So three of the four were with the President about avoiding default. And so that’s also very important and that’s also really key and that’s what the President has been stating over and over and over again. And so we’ll see what happens. The meeting’s is going to happen in the next 20 minutes or so, right after this briefing is done, I presume. And we’ll let the leaders talk amongst themselves and the President’s going to make it very clear that they need to do their job and do their constitutional duty.
And then following up on something Zeke was asking about. You’ve said that the White House isn’t negotiating over raising the debt ceiling, but the President and his team have been actively negotiating with Republican congressional leaders, overspending. They’re rushing to get a deal before June one. How is that not negotiating over the vote?
Karine Jean-Pierre (31:50):
The way that we see these conversations and we continue to be clear, default is not negotiable. It should be done without conditions. That has not changed with us. We are having conversations about the budget. We are having conversations about appropriation, which is regular order, which is what is supposed to be happening year after year. This is the conversations that have occurred.
You would think that wouldn’t be happening till September. So what is the time pressure on doing negotiations now for spending?
Karine Jean-Pierre (32:18):
There are many examples of simultaneous conversations on spending and preventing default. That is nothing new. What we are saying is that they should not connect the two, that they should get the job done and that we are going to have a conversation about budget and we’re going to continue to say, hold the line here and be really, really firm and say that negotiating on default is not an option. And so that’s what the President has said. You’ve heard from him directly over the last couple of days, as many of your colleagues have had the opportunity to ask him that very question. You’re hearing from the President of the United States, who has said that this is not about the debt limit. There’s no negotiating around the debt limit. They should do their constitutional duty and move forward.
Speaker 7 (33:01):
Thank you Karine. The White House keeps saying that Republicans are manufacturing a crisis by refusing to do a clean bill to raise the debt limit. Right now, the nation’s debt exceeds a hundred percent of its GDP. This has happened twice in US history, once during World War II and once now over the last couple of years. How is it not a crisis when the country literally owes more than it’s worth?
Karine Jean-Pierre (33:24):
You should ask the speaker this question. This is his job. This is his constitutional duty to move forward and get the debt limit done. That is a question for him. They are the legislative. It is a co-equal branch, as you know. They are the legislative body and this is what they’re supposed to do. Seriously, that is a question for the speaker and the MAGA Republicans who are literally holding our economy hostage. I have to move on. I promise to take one more [inaudible 00:33:50]
Speaker 14 (33:49):
Thank you Karine. What is the White House reaction to special counsel Durham’s report on how the FBI handled the Trump Russia probe.
Karine Jean-Pierre (34:00):
I would leave it to the Department of Justice to speak to them.
Speaker 14 (34:02):
The President talks often about how he wants the DOJ and FBI to remain independent and above the fray. That report seems to reflect the opposite. Does he agree with special counsel Durham that there needs to be wholesale changes at the FBI?
Karine Jean-Pierre (34:19):
Again, that is with the Department of Justice. That’s not something that I’m going to speak from the podium. As you just stated in your question, we believe in an independent Department of Justice. That’s what the President said when he was running and that’s what the President has said the last two years. Thank you so much. I’ll see you guys in Japan.