Aug 28, 2022

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 8/25/22 Transcript

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 8/25/22 Transcript
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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre 8/25/22. Read the transcript here.

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Karine Jean-Pierre: (00:00)
Good afternoon.

Press: (00:00)
Good afternoon.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (00:02)
Okay. Hi, everybody. Okay. So today, the president will sign an executive order to implement the semiconductor funding in the Chips and Science Act. This bipartisan law will lower the costs of goods, creating high-paying manufacturing jobs around the country and ensure we make more critical technologies at home. Specifically, this EO lays out the key priorities for implementation. It will also establish an interagency council to coordinate implementation of the law.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (00:40)
This council will be co-chaired by NEC Director Brian Deese, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and the acting director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Elandra Nelson. Today, the Department of Commerce launched It’s live now, you should go check it out, which is a one-stop shop for funding opportunities, timelines, application requirements, and so much more. With that, see, just one topper today, go ahead, Ahmer.

Ahmer: (01:15)
Back on student loans, wanted to ask you, Congressman Tim Ryan and Senator Bennett were among Democrats that have made the point that the administration should have further targeted the student relief and proposed a way to pay for the plan. What does the administration say to particularly Congressman Ryan’s point that waiving debt for those already on a trajectory to financial security sends the wrong message to Americans? And I was also hoping you could talk to, perhaps a little bit of color, to what extent were consultations made with particularly Democrats who had some misgivings and wanted to see this more fixed towards lower-income Americans?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (01:57)
So just a couple of things, because you asked me a bunch of things there, Ahmer. First of all, this was a campaign promise that the president made, as we all know, during the campaign back in 2020, and he had wanted to make sure that he gives that little bit of breathing room to Americans who really need it. And this was targeted. This was targeted for Americans who are making less than 125,000. It gives that 10,000 debt relief. And it has that Pell grant provision in there, as we’ve talked about, You heard from Ambassador Susan Rice and you guys have all read, I’m sure, the fact sheets.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (02:40)
And when you look at the Pell grant provision and you add that piece to it, that could go up to 20,000, right? And so that’s incredibly targeted. That’s really important. Those borrowers who are on Pell grant, let’s think about this. Some of us in here probably had gotten Pell grant. I had to get a Pell grant when I went to college, and those are families that are $60,000 households, and that’s nearly $60,000 per household. And if you look at it by half, part of that tranche is $30,000 people per household. That’s incredibly targeted and will go very far and will be a big deal.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (03:26)
Look, we understand, the president understands, and he said this yesterday, it’s not going to please everybody. He understands that the policy is not. What he is trying to do is make sure that, again, we’re giving families a little breathing room. And just to give you a few quotes, because there has been a broad range of groups and advocates from teachers unions to labor groups to racial justice advocates who have applauded the president’s announcements. If you think about the United Auto Workers, President Biden once again showed that his administration stands with working families over special interests. That’s what we’re talking about. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, this is AFSCME, “Today’s historic actions puts money back into working people’s pockets and frees thousands of families from crippling debt.” That’s what we’re talking about.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (04:17)
American Federation of Teachers, AFT, you know all of them, “This administration’s decisions have been a game-changer.” And lastly, Representative Clyburn, “This will help free borrowers, especially borrowers of color, from the crushing burden of student loan debt and help make higher education accessible, affordable to all.” And to your other part of your question about who we spoke to, we are constantly in conversations on all these types of big issues, big announcement, whether it’s legislation, whether it’s executive action that we take, with Congress, with groups, and people who are really going to be affected by this. That is important to the president. The way that we see this, this is a smart, fiscally balanced way approach to deal with an issue that does indeed cripple families.

Ahmer: (05:10)
I just have one other topic. President spoke with President Zelensky today, and I don’t think there’s readout that I’ve seen.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (05:17)
Not yet.

Ahmer: (05:19)
But I was wondering, there’s also this situation with the nuclear power plant, where the facilities reportedly now been cut off from the electrical grid. Was that discussed during today’s call? And I guess what is the administration going to do to try to safeguard the situation so that the situation doesn’t turn into a disaster?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (05:38)
We’ll have a readout to all of you shortly. Let me just give you a couple of lines, here. So the president reiterated the United States support for Ukraine as they defend themselves from Russian aggression, including yesterday’s announcements of nearly $3 billion in weapons and equipment. He congratulated Ukraine as it marked a particularly significant independence day this week and shared his admiration for the people of Ukraine and its armed forces as they continue to inspire the world with their dedication and freedom. Again, we will have more of a more detailed readout to all of you.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (06:18)
As it relates to ZNPP, look, a nuclear power plant, and I believe I said this yesterday, should never be an active war zone. And so we have said Russia should agree to demilitarize the zone around the plant and agree to allow an international atomic energy agency visit as soon as possible to check on the safety and security of the systems. This is something that did come up in the conversation, but I don’t want to get ahead of the readout, and I’ll let NSC put that out momentarily. Okay.

Speaker 1: (06:55)
Thanks so much. A few more questions just on the student loan debt forgiveness. You guys yesterday confirmed that the form that millions of borrowers are going to need to essentially apply for this to show they’re eligible is not yet ready, and we saw overnight that was having some serious delays. Did the administration rule this out before it was ready?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (07:12)
No, not at all. Look, we have said, we have said for a very long time, for some time now, you’ve heard from the president directly that we would have a decision by August 31st. This is something that you all have been asking about, talking with us at this podium, or when we have conversations with you outside of the briefing room, that this is something that he wanted to really take his time, figure out the ways to do this. Remember, we talked about having the legal authority, which that went through. You guys can go to the Department of Justice. It lays out the legal review that was done on this.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (07:51)
And so this is, again, incredibly important. We will continue to tell people to go to the website or you can go to There’s a banner there. People can just click and you can actually give your email and get those updates. There will be some folks, I think there’s about eight million people who we have their information or Department of Education has their information, and so it would be automatic. Some folks will have to actually go and figure out how this process works, and they can go to the website.

Speaker 1: (08:23)
But for everyone else, besides those eight million, if they have to wait for these forms and they have to apply and they have to hear back, can you guarantee that everyone who qualifies will see their balance shrink before repayments start being due next year?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (08:34)
Look, this is something that we want to make sure it happens right away. I don’t have a timeline for you. That is something that the Department of Education is going to work on in a way that’s hopefully, as they can, in a fast way. But look, that is something, again, that Department of Education is going to focus on. It is important. We want this to happen for these individuals, but again, as we know, the pause is going to be lifted at the end of December 31st, at the end of December, so we want to make sure that it is done in tangent. That’s what the Department of Education’s going to be focused on.

Speaker 1: (09:15)
If I can just ask kind of a more political question, too, following up. My colleague quoted Tim Ryan in Ohio. What a lot of the Democrats have in common, those who have been pushing back and distancing themselves from this announcement, what they have in common is that they’re pretty vulnerable politically or they’re in tough political races. Are you guys worried that you might have put more vulnerable Democrats in a tough spot, that you could have risked some of these races in November?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (09:38)
As you know, I can’t get into politics from here. So I have to be very, very careful. I want to talk through some polling. So if you look at the targeted student loan forgiveness, the announcement that you heard from the Department of Education and the president, it’s popular amongst American people. Three recent polls show that the president’s proposal, the 10,000k forgiven is supported by majority of Americans. A couple of polls. The Morning Consult Political Poll in June, among 2,006 registered voters, found 51% support forgiving $10,000. NPR, a survey of 1,022 adults conducted last month found 55% of respondents back the cancellation of up to $10,000. The Economist/YouGov survey of 1500 adults in July found 51% of Americans are in favor of that threshold. So majority of Americans approve of this targeted approach that you heard from this administration, and I think that matters.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (10:41)
Again, I’m not going to get into politics, into what is the next several weeks are going to look like as the elections play out, but I can speak to the popularity of what we did, the importance of what we did, how this is going to help struggling families, and that has always been the plan of this president, especially as we look at the economy and making sure that we do not leave anybody behind. Go ahead, Steve. And I’ll come around, folks. Go ahead, Steve.

Steve: (11:07)
Do you have a better sense of how much the plan will cost?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (11:13)
Ambassador, and I want to make sure I give her the right title, Ambassador Rice spoke to this yesterday. I know this question was asked of her. Just a couple of things before I get to that piece. The president’s record on fiscal responsibility is second to none. And last year alone, you’ve heard us talk about this because this is incredibly important, he achieved $350 billion in deficit reduction. And this year, it’s projected by the end of the fiscal year to be at $1.7 trillion deficit reduction. This is historic. What we’re talking about here is historic numbers because of the work that this president has done when it comes to the economy. The previous administration added debt every year of his administration, and one of the things that we continue to do is make sure that we bring down the debt. If you look at the Inflation Reduction Act, it is projected to decrease the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades, even after taking this action. So that is also important to note, as well.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (12:24)
Look, but just to reiterate what my colleague said yesterday, the domestic policy advisor, it will also, all of this, when it comes to cost, will also depend on how many of the loans canceled were actually expected to be repaid. It will depend on how many bars actually take up this opportunity before we have a real sense, but again, we have a deficit production that is historic, and we also know, this last piece here, is that independent experts like Goldman Sachs agree that the president’s plan will not have any meaningful impact on inflation. In fact, Goldman Sachs and others estimate that it will reduce inflation. So that’s just one more thing that I wanted to add, because I know that’s been a question that others have had.

Steve: (13:10)
Are you expecting the president to bring this up in his speech tonight? What should we expect from that speech?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (13:15)
The speech, I have a little bit of a preview for all of you. We knew you would want to ask. And as you know, got to be careful of what I say. So tonight, the president will lay out the choice before Americans. He’ll highlight how he and congressional Democrats have delivered results for working families, creating nearly 10 million jobs and record low unemployment, lowering healthcare costs and energy costs, passing a new gun safety law, which we hadn’t seen in decades. He’ll say that they have taken on special interest and won. That’s what Democrats have done. This is what you have seen these past several weeks in particular. And he’ll say what they are still fighting for is protecting a woman’s right to choose, not a national ban on abortion, which we have seen from the other side, the safety of kids in school, not protecting the NRA, as we’ve seen from the Republicans, and the right to vote and have that vote counted, which is so incredibly important as we talk about our democracy.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (14:16)
The president will contrast that with congressional Republicans and their extreme MAGA agenda, taking away our rights, defending the super rich and corporations and putting social security and Medicare on the chopping blocks. That is the plan that they have put forward. And as you know, he always quotes his dad. “Don’t compare me to the almighty. Compare me to the alternative.” The alternative to congressional Democrats and President Biden is MAGA Republicans. That is what you’re going to hear from him this evening, and we’ll see you there. Go ahead.

Speaker 2: (14:49)
It seems inevitable at this point. Has the administration prepared for potential legal challenges to the legal basis for the student loan?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (14:57)
So as you heard from the ambassador yesterday, she talked about this specifically, because she was asked, and we saw our legal authority through the Heroes Act. That is the legal authority that we are using in order to move forward with this. Just a couple of things here is that the Department of Education and the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel have published, and this is what I was just talking about before, detailed opinions explaining the legal basis, that legal review for canceling student debt. That was one of the things that we took very seriously. We had mentioned this the past year almost. And again, the Secretary of Education has broad authority under the Heroes Act to take this action.

Speaker 2: (15:41)
I understand that you guys believe you have the legal basis for it, that’s why you did it, but are you prepared for the legal challenges?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (15:47)
I mean, look, I can’t get into what, any hypotheticals here. What we know and what we have done is taken a look of our legal authority and how we can make-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (16:03)
… so taking a look of our legal authority and how we can make this happen. And we went with the HEROES Act and we feel pretty confident about that, but I just don’t want to get into hypotheticals on that at this time.

Peter: (16:13)
Okay. And then one more. So I think the President’s going to bring it up tonight, but the President directed the HHS Secretary to take 30 days and come back with the review on a series of issues in executive order. I think it’s in early July, does that review come back and kind of where do you stand on that?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (16:28)
I think MJ asked me this question a couple weeks ago. I’m going to have to go back to our team just to be sure. I haven’t done that yet. And so tomorrow, hopefully I’ll have an update or we can talk after this, but I know that you all asked this question before, so I haven’t forgotten. Go ahead, Michael.

Michael: (16:44)
Thank you. If I could go back to something my Fox colleague asked yesterday, and that’s about who pays for this. So I did a search last night for the phrase “fully paid for” coming from that podium and in President Biden’s speeches during the last year and a half. I found scores of them. I promise I won’t read them all, but just a couple. You quoted experts saying that, “The package…” Referencing the IRA would quote, “Quickly and noticeably bring down healthcare costs for families, would be more than fully paid for.” Jen Psaki talked about, on February 2nd, “He’s committed to sustainable and responsible policy and ensuring that our long term investments are fully paid for like Build Back Better.

Michael: (17:29)
Brian Deese talked about packages that would be fully paid for across time. The President, in multiple steep speeches, talked about, “This bill…” This is in December, referring to the BBB, “Is paid fully, fully paid for it. It won’t increase the deficit.” Anyway, the question is, do you all believe that this student loan program is fully paid for? And if it’s not, why does the President think it was important to have all of his other spending priorities fully paid for, to be fiscally responsible, but not this one?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (18:05)
So again, this is the question that my colleague here, Ambassador, got. So we have to get a better sense of what we’re talking about as far as cost. Wait, let me just say that out loud. She is the domestic policy advisor. And when she was asked that question, so I just want to iterate what she said, but we do believe it will be fully paid for, because of the work that this President has done with the economy, because of what you just said, well, what I just said, is what we have done to bring down the deficit, the deficit reduction, that matters and the work that we’ll continue to do.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (18:43)
Look, when you look at IRA, it is also that 300 billion deficit is going to matter. When you think about that 1.7 trillion by the end of this fiscal year, it’s going to matter as well. And also here’s the thing. When we talk about the pause being lifted, that’s going to bring 50 billion per year back into the Treasury. That was actually not happening throughout, almost for two years now. So that’s going to be coming back at the same time that basically people are getting these benefits from this plan.

Michael: (19:27)
Just to clarify. So the previous, whether it was the Build Back Better proposals or IRA or the infrastructure bills, those were, in the words of the administration anyway, “Fully paid for internally.”

Karine Jean-Pierre: (19:42)

Michael: (19:42)
You’re saying that this one, because of the benefits of deficit reduction, you’re okay raising or lessening that deficit reduction with this proposal because of the work that’s been done in the past, because this one doesn’t have any pay fors. There are no mechanisms internally to this that would raise money at the same time that it’s spending money.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (20:07)
Well, here’s what I would say. I mean, the question was asked to me earlier about how there’s some Democrats who are not happy with this. And so, because either they wanted more or they didn’t want it at all. And what the President did, the step that he took, was to do this in a fiscally responsible way. This is what we believe. This is why it took us this time to do the legal review, to look at the process. This is why we didn’t do the 50,000. We did up to 20,000. This is why my colleagues here at the podium said, “Well, let’s see who actually takes advantage of this. Then we’ll have a better sense of what this is actually going to cost.” But when you think about the 50 billion dollars that goes back into the Treasury, when you think about the lowering the deficit that we have, which is historic, which is historic, the 1.7 trillion, the 350 billion, the first year of the President’s administration, that matters.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (21:10)
And it is one of those things that… Always welcome this conversation. But what we have done is fiscally responsible. What the last administration did, was not, it just was not. And what they did with cutting taxes for the wealthy, 85% of folks making… It went to 85% of folks who were making more than 75,000 a year. We’re actually doing the opposite. And it should matter that this President is trying to give some breathing room for people who’ve been literally crippled by this pandemic, by what has happened the last couple of years. And so, again, the way we see it is we’ve done it in a fiscal balanced, responsible way. We will see who takes advantage of this, but this is supposed to going to help 43 million people. And just think about it. If people are saving a little bit of money, they are going to go buy that house, they’re going to start a family. This matters in so many ways.

Michael: (22:19)
So that matters more than keeping the deficit lower by including something that would offset whatever the cost might become?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:27)
Yeah. I mean, look, we don’t believe that it’s going to increase the deficit because what we’re saying that is the 1.7 trillion, we’ve done the work to lower the deficit. Also 50 billion per year is going to go back-

Michael: (22:51)
But that 50 billion was already… I mean, it’s already was there-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:51)
Yeah, but we were getting-

Michael: (22:52)
[inaudible 00:22:52].

Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:52)
No, but we were getting zero. The Treasury was getting zero for the last two years.

Michael: (22:59)
[inaudible 00:22:59] owed that money. The money was still-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (23:00)
No, I understand that. I get what you’re saying, but there’s also an argument that I’m making as well, is that we’re putting money back into the Treasury, which matters as well. That is going to happen.

Michael: (23:11)
[inaudible 00:23:11] a judgment on which is better or not. I’m just trying to understand, I think as some of my colleagues are, if what you guys are saying here is basically the President’s made the determination that helping people with their debt is important enough, and in your words, matters enough to spend what could be estimates of three, four, 500 billion dollars without explicitly saying where that money is coming from. And that you’re willing to use the deficit savings that you have claimed to do that. And that’s what I’m trying to understand.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (23:49)
No. And I’m trying to explain to you how it will offset, how all of this would be offset once the pause is lifted, and also once this process with the student loan is also done. So there is a process here, that we believe is going to offset that.

Michael: (24:08)
I think my colleague [inaudible 00:24:10]-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (24:10)
Okay. I know. All right. Well, I’m glad that I’ve exhausted you, Michael. That is rare to exhaust you.

Michael: (24:19)
[inaudible 00:24:19].

Karine Jean-Pierre: (24:19)
I know. Usually you don’t get exhausted. All right, go ahead, Peter.

Peter: (24:22)
If I could ask you just following up, I have some follow ups on one quick one on that. We heard from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget today, you guys can’t estimate what it’ll cost. You want to see how many people take you up on it, but they estimate cancellation will eliminate about 550 billion in federal student loan debt. They say, “However, we project that the overall amount of outstanding federal student loan debt will return to 1.6 trillion, it’s current level, within five years.” So is the President committed to doing this again? Or is this just a one time deal?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (24:50)
You’re asking me about a hypothetical that I don’t-

Peter: (24:53)
I guess I’m asking, let’s let’s not be so specific if that’s not a hypothetical. They say, this nonpartisan organization says, it’s just going to go back up again. Is the President okay with this just being a temporary relief thing and then it’s okay and won’t taxpayers-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (25:07)
So, I mean, it is a little bit of a hypothetical. You started off asking me the question that we don’t know what the number is, which we don’t, we have to see what the… In order for me to fully answer that question-

Peter: (25:16)
Does the White House believe that it will not go up again, that the federal student loan debt will not go up again? And that the ideas that the ambassador yesterday presented will stop the rising cost of college and that debt will not continue to rise?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (25:30)
So look, when we talk about the rising cost of college, and I know this question… And you’re talking about tuition. So look, we have taken steps on colleges raising tuition. This is something that the Department of Education, Secretary Cardona, takes very seriously. He’s been closely watching and he’s going to hold colleges accountable for raising costs without delivering additional value. So a couple of things, those measures that we have taken, because I think this is important. As you’re asking me this question for Americans to hear, reinstated and enforcement of office at the Department of Education, we terminated a college accreditor that had previously followed colleges and that defrauded borrowers to get access to federal student loans.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (26:16)
And we’re rolling out new resources to help students make more informed decision on which schools will better deliver. So these are steps that he’s taking. We will monitor, we will crack down on anybody who is acting in this way, that is defrauding students. That is something that you heard from Ambassador Rice herself. And then we have taken other steps. We have taken other steps through the American Rescue Plan to provide 40 billion dollars for colleges and universities to support students, particularly at community colleges and minority institutions. And another thing that we’ve done is ask for Pell Grants to be doubled and a lot more. So we are going to try to do our best to keep those costs lower as we talk about tuition, but if we’re going to do more and what… We just have to see what that number looks like.

Peter: (27:09)
Understood. We’ll let others litigate that. Let me move on to the topic I wanted to ask you about, which is the event that’s taking place tonight. I know there’s only so much you can say as it relates to politics, but just as the White House controls his schedule, how often should we expect to see the President going forward on the campaign trail, this being the sort of first formal pre midterm event. And separately, what do you say to those candidates who don’t want a campaign with him given his low approval ratings or low popularity perhaps in some states? Tim Ryan in Ohio said, “We haven’t asked President Biden to come. We have no expectation or no plans to ask him to campaign.” Michael Bennett in Colorado wouldn’t even comment on it.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (27:42)
So I’ll say this. Look, Democrats, as we know, has a lot to talk about. They have delivered for the American people. And especially as we’ve seen the couple of weeks again, the Inflation Reduction Act, you think about the burn pits. That’s going to expand services for veterans, for veterans who have put their lives on the line for our nation, which is incredibly important. You think about the CHIPS Act we just talked about, what an executive order that the President signed to really make sure that gets implemented in a responsible way. And also the went live. We have a list of things. Let’s not forget the bipartisan infrastructure law, all historic pieces of legislation that we are going to go out there and make sure that the American people are aware. We put out a memo, as you all know, a couple weeks ago, talking about that particular specific thing. I can’t get into politics from here, as you know very well, Peter-

Peter: (28:40)
But it’s not politics.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (28:40)
Well, no, you asked me-

Peter: (28:42)
[inaudible 00:28:42] you control his schedule.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (28:43)
No, but you specifically asked me how much is he going to get out there to campaign? I can’t-

Peter: (28:49)
But the White House does control his schedule.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (28:49)
I’m about to answer. I’m just saying that with a preface that I need to be careful on what I say. Look, the President loves to go out there and meet with the American people. He wants to be out there and travel as much as possible. He has something that he wants to say and deliver and let the American people know that we have done. And so, yeah. Will you see the President out there? Yes. You will see the President travel. That is something he wants to do. That is something we all want to see him do as well. Get out there. I cannot talk specific about the campaign. I cannot do that from here.

Peter: (29:27)
But to those candidates who don’t want him to be with them-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:29)
Again, we have something, Democrats, especially the work that congressional Democrats have been-

Peter: (29:35)
[inaudible 00:29:35] The President just accept that and says it’s part of the deal.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:37)
Well, the President appreciates working with a lot of these… Some of the members, some of them are elected officials in their own state. He has good relationships with them. He talks to some of them really regularly and you’ll hear a lot more from the President tonight. I just want to be really careful, Peter. So as you know, we are trying to be respectful of the Hatch Act here, but again, we believe that Democrats have a lot to sell. We have done a lot to deliver for the American people. And we are happy to contrast what we have done against our congressional Republicans. And that’s what you’re going to hear from the President.

Peter: (30:15)
Thank you.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (30:17)
I’ll come to the back.

Speaker 3: (30:18)
Thank you.

Speaker 4: (30:19)
Just really quick on student loans. Does the President expect, or does he want the Education Department to hire additional staff to handle what could be millions of applications. They’re already struggling to handle the existing student loan programs that they have.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (30:32)
No, that’s a very good question. I’ve not talked to the President about that specifically. I do not know what is going to be coming in to the Department of Education. That is something that they will have to speak to about their own staff and what that looks like. Clearly, this is important for the President. He wants to make sure that we deliver these benefits to the 40… We’re anticipating 43 million people who will get some relief here. And so that is going to be up to Secretary Cardona. Clearly we support the Department of Education doing everything that they can to make sure we get this done.

Speaker 3: (31:08)
Does the administration expect a large number of people who aren’t eligible… Oh, sorry, who are eligible for this program to not apply for it?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (31:16)
Yeah. I mean, that’s a hypothetical that I just don’t know.

Speaker 3: (31:19)
It goes to the question of why you can’t estimate the cost.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (31:23)
I mean, I am answering this in the most… We are doing everything that we can. We have a specific website that you have heard many of my colleagues, whether on TV, here, talk about that website and encourage people to get on the website, to get the information that they need. They can go to, as I just said moments ago, to get the information that they need. So to see if they are actually eligible and what the process is going to be. I know it’s going to take some time. The Department of Education has to do their work to get that information out, which they will. They know this is a priority. I mean, it is hard to say who’s going to take us up on it and who’s not, it is just hard to…

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:03)
To say who’s going to take us up on it, and who’s not. It is just hard to say. What we can do is provide the information, and let people know that this exists.

Speaker 5: (32:12)
But you could say this is how much it’s going to cost to everyone who is eligible applies.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:16)
I mean, we just don’t have a number to share at this time.

Speaker 6: (32:19)
Why don’t you?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:20)
Look, the former UN ambassador spoke to this yesterday. We just have to see. It is a process that we just need to take a look before we can answer that question. We just don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.

Speaker 6: (32:34)
But I guess what I’m struggling with, and as my colleagues have asked about is-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:38)
Yeah, you asked the same question yesterday. This is nothing new, right? This is a-

Speaker 6: (32:41)
No, I’ve got different questions today.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:42)
Oh, okay. But you picked up on what he was saying, so-

Speaker 6: (32:45)
But are we going to say if you don’t know how much it’s going to cost, how can you guarantee that it’s going to be paid for, even if you’re defining paid for in a way that some of us have questions about?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:54)
Look, I think what I can tell you is this, is that we have done the work to make sure that this is done in a fiscal responsible way, in a balanced way. If you look at how we were able to do the deficit reduction in the past almost two years, $350 billion in the first year, $1.7 trillion reduction that we will see at the end of this fiscal year, that matters as well. That matters by bringing down that deficit. It matters on how we can get this done for the American people. But let’s not forget. The pause will be lifted, and that’s going to matter as Treasury is going to get the revenues that they haven’t been getting in some time. Again, we will… Susan Rice is the domestic policy advisor. I’m just going to reiterate what she said. And we’ll actually know more once people take us up on it, and get a sense if they will. But we do have what we do know, right, which is what I just listed about the deficit reduction, which is important. This matters in this case. Go ahead, Nancy.

Nancy: (34:09)
Thanks. Just on the Iran deal, I’m wondering if the US is optimistic about the prospects for restarting that nuclear accord?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (34:16)
Say that last part?

Nancy: (34:18)
Is the US optimistic about restarting the nuclear accord, the Iran deal?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (34:22)
Yes, yes, yes. I thought you said something else, okay. It was hard to hear that last part. So look, we have taken a deliberate and principal approach to these negotiations from the beginning, from the start. If Iran is prepared to comply with its commitments under the 2015 deal, then we’re prepared to do the same. The administration along with our allies, is preparing equally for scenarios with and without a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA. The president will only conclude a deal that he determines is in the national security interest of the United States. So again, we have always said, diplomacy is the way to get to a nuclear deal back to JCPOA, and so we’re just going to continue to have those conversations.

Nancy: (35:16)
I just want to follow up on that. What did the administration say in its response to Iran and the European Union regarding the EU proposal to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (35:26)
So as you know, we received Iran’s comments on the EU’s proposed final text, and we’re reviewing them now. We provided our response to the EU yesterday. The Department of State confirmed this yesterday, as well. We’re not going to negotiate in public. You hear us say this all the time, we’re just going to continue to have those open lines of communications.

Peter: (35:48)
Thanks, Karine.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (35:49)
I’m sorry, Jackie.

Peter: (35:50)
I was hoping, could you-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (35:51)
And then I’ll go to the back.

Peter: (35:52)
Could you reflect a little bit on the decision against the Idaho abortion law, particularly in light of the Texas ruling in the other direction? I mean, is there something that can be learned from this?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (36:06)
Look, we put out a statement not too long ago, about the particular Iowa decision. I talked about the Texas decision yesterday, which is the District Court affirming that medical providers can deny life saving and health preserving care for women, even if they are suffering from hemorrhaging or life threatening hypertension, which is what we saw about 24 hours, and heard from the Texas District Court. Look, this is something as you all were asking me about what the president is going to lean into, this is something that he will talk about, which is how Republican legislators are working to roll back the freedoms Americans have really depended on, for nearly half a century. And it’s more and more clear that it is against the will of the majority of Americans. And that’s what you’re seeing, right? That’s what you’re seeing, even with the Idaho decision. That’s what we saw with Kansas as well, is the majority of Americans are speaking, are making their voices clear. Right? This is not what we saw, the decision that we saw on June 24, the Dobbs decision, was not the majority rule, was not the voice.

Peter: (37:19)
Is there anything that can be learned from the opposing rulings, I mean contrary rulings?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (37:24)
Well, I mean, I think it’s basically what I just stated, right, which is the majority of Americans have been very clear on this. When it comes to that Dobbs decision that came from the Supreme Court on June 24, it was not of the voice of the majority of Americans. And what we’re going to see is, women across the country are going to continue to make their voices heard to reclaim rights taken from them by the Supreme Court. President Biden and Congressional Democrats are listening, and we’re going to be committed to restoring the protections of Roe. And so that’s what we’re going to do, that is going to be our focus. Again, this is majority… The majority of folks here in this country disagree. They disagree because this has been life changing, when you think about the Dobbs decision that was done just a couple months ago.

Peter: (38:19)
I’m just the one to be called, if I may. The President just tweeted out about remaining committed to Ukraine. I was curious if there was any conversation at all about faith in Zelenskyy himself, considering earlier reports of distrust. Did that come up, and did the president feel a need to give any assurance to Zelenskyy that he was behind him, personally?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (38:43)
Yeah. Again, I don’t have the specific readout, as when I walked out the readout hadn’t come out yet. I gave you a couple of points of what was discussed, but the full readout will be out soon. Look, we’ve been asked this question before. We support Zelenskyy the president, and his fight for freedom. We are impressed, have been for the past six months, of what the Ukrainian people have been able to do to be able to fight off an unprovoked war by the Kremlin. Again, we cannot forget this. The Kremlin decided that they didn’t want Ukraine to be a democracy. But it is a democracy, it is a sovereign country. So we announced the $3 billion traunch yesterday that shows our support for Ukraine, that shows our long term support for Ukraine. And we’re going to continue to support them as long as they need our help. Again, they are fighting for their democracy, and that matters. And we have been incredibly impressed by what they have been able to do, and we’re going to continue to hold the Kremlin accountable. That’s going to be our focus.

Peter: (40:06)
Can you about face to face?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (40:07)
No talk. I don’t have any visit, or any announcement of a face to face. As you know, the First Lady was here recently of Ukraine, and both the President and the First Lady, Dr. Biden, was honored to have her here for her visit. So as also you know, Secretary Blinken has visited Ukraine and met with his counterparts there. So we have had other, clearly members of the administration go visit and talk to their counterparts in Ukraine. I’m going to go to the back. Go ahead.

Speaker 7: (40:41)
Okay, thank you, Karine. A quick one on the event [inaudible 00:40:46], and also a question about the questions you can’t answer about politics.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (40:50)

Speaker 7: (40:51)
So why a rally in Maryland? Is there anyone on the ballot in Maryland, Chris Van Hollen or anyone like that, who the President needs to spend his time trying to shore up going into November? And secondly, in the past administration, and I’m not saying that this was actually a good strategy, or even one that was technically compliant with the Hatch Act, I’m not sure. In the past administration, when there were questions that would come up that were questions that could not be answered from the White House briefing room, the press secretary would literally leave the White House briefing room, and go to some other buildings-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (41:28)
I know.

Speaker 7: (41:28)
… if they weren’t in a federal facility, and they could get around the Hatch Act. So are you going to start having briefings other than here, or are those-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (41:36)
So you want to meet in some back alley somewhere to have this conversation, to talk politics? Is that what’s happening? Well, James, that’s… Well, look. I don’t know if I want to compare by how we behave with the last administration. That is not something that I would want to be doing at all when it comes to the Hatch Act and being responsible, and doing the right thing. But what I can do, is I could… You’re going to hear from the President himself tonight. He will lay out clearly what his thoughts are. I’m certainly not going to get ahead of him. I gave a pretty good lay down of what I was able to say from here, what he’s going to talk about. It’s going to be the contrast, it’s going to be how Democrats have a different view of where they see the country going, which is making sure that we deliver for the middle class, making sure that we have an economy that goes from the bottom up and middle out. That is incredibly important for the President. That’s why you’ve seen the work that he’s done, the American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan Infrastructure law which is historic, the CHIPS Act, which I just talked about, the Inflation Reduction Act, and let’s not forget the gun reform, which is something we hadn’t seen in decades. And a lot of that is because of the work that this president has done.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (43:03)
And I know one thing I just did is, I just called a few bipartisan pieces of legislation that were passed that we were able to do, and that is something that the president welcomes. But at the same time, as we’re talking about inflation, as we’re talking about the special interest, that is something that we have not seen Republicans step up to the plate, and they voted against Medicare being able to negotiate, and lowering costs. They voted against standing up for voting rights, or not supporting voting rights. They have a plan that wants to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping blocks. So that is what we’re going to focus on, that is what we’re going to continue to talk about, is what we have done in this 19 months for the American people, so.

Speaker 8: (43:56)
Karine, Karine.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (43:57)
I’m going to continue to go to the back. Go ahead, [Garin 00:44:02].

Garin: (44:03)
Thanks, Karine. Sorry, I know this is a too in depth question.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (44:03)
Yeah, sure.

Garin: (44:05)
But I’ve spoken to advocates who have expressed concern over what they worry could be a bureaucratic hurdle for minority communities, based on the income verification application process. They base this worry on having to be seen as minority communities as it relates to them not engaging in government programs, because of the paperwork. And they worry that this could hinder access and participation for minority communities. Is the administration concerned that communities that need this relief the most won’t get it, because of this bureaucratic hurdle?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (44:40)
Well, that’s always a concern, right? You bring up, Garin, a very, very good point. And the Secretary’s been very, very clear. Secretary Cardona, the Secretary of the Department of Education, has said he’s going to do everything that he possibly can to make this as simple as possible, so that it doesn’t become a bureaucratic headache. That is not something that the president wants. He wants to make sure that the 43 million people that this could potentially help actually get these benefits. It’s important, it’s critical, especially as we’re also going to lift the pause in just a couple of months. We understand what that’s going to mean. You’ve got to remember, we’re coming out of a time with this pandemic as you know, that’s really hurt people of color, low income communities, what’s happened, what the pandemic has done with the economy.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (45:32)
That’s why the President has done all the work that he’s done to make sure we don’t leave anybody behind. And this is part of that. Again, the Secretary is committed, the President is committed to make sure that we do… That the American people are able to access these benefits. And then I’ll come back again. Go ahead.

Speaker 9: (45:52)
Thank you. I want to ask about the legal basis for canceling student debt. The Heroes Act hinges on student debt cancellation being tied to the pandemic, and that being a national emergency. But the administration argued in court that the pandemic is over at the Southern border, to lift Title 42. It’s so over, that the government’s going to stop buying vaccines in the fall and shift to private sector. So how is this a national emergency? How’s COVID a national emergency when it comes to student debt?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (46:23)
So it’s a very good question, and I’m glad you asked it. Look, we use the Heroes Act because there are going to be some people when we lift the pause, that’s still going to suffer. They’re still going to have a little bit of a hard time. So that’s one of the reasons that we made this decision. Because as we’re lifting up the pause, yes, some folks may… The having not to pay for two years has been helpful to them and were able to save, and are probably going to be able to pay those monthly payments. But there’s going to be some folks who are going to have a hard time.

Speaker 9: (47:02)
Because of the economy?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (47:03)
Because they’re just in a different bracket, right, just because they’ve probably had a hard time before. We have to remember, this is a system… So he announced the pause, lifting up the pause, he announced the $10,000 and up to $20,000 for PELL Grant recipients, who as I said, many of them have a household nearly making $60,000, and half of the PELL Grant recipients are $30,000 household, $30, 000 a year household. And so the other piece of that is a reform, right? We’re forming the system as well so we can help nurses, so we can help construction workers, so we can help firefighters, and making sure that their payment are cut in half as well. Because remember, these are some of our first respondents who also suffered so much from the past two years. So he wanted to make sure he gave them a little bit of relief, understanding that some folks-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (48:02)
.. of relief, understanding that some folks are just going to have a little bit of a harder time, even though we’re coming out of a pandemic and the economy has been turned back on because of the work that this President has done.

Speaker 9: (48:14)
That was another thing I was going to mention. I mean, the President often says that we’re not in a recession because we’ve got record job market, record low unemployment, businesses investing in America at record rates. So why are those appropriate conditions to forgive student debt?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (48:31)
Well, thank you for laying out all the work that the President has done. That is a thousand percent correct, but we’ve also said that we know that some people are still suffering. We’ve heard us say that too. Yes, the economy can be turned back on and we’ve created what you’ve just laid out, nearly 10 million new jobs since the President took office. That matters. The economy is stronger than it’s been in some time. And we have said that. You’ve heard the President say that there’s still some folks who need a little bit more help. And this is what the President is trying to do. Both can be true. It’s not one or the other.

Speaker 9: (49:08)
Well, the Washington Post editorial board says that this-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (49:11)
And then I’m going to go to the back, as we’re running out of time.

Speaker 9: (49:14)
… doesn’t help those people, though. That it takes money from the broader tax base, mostly made up of workers who didn’t go to college to subsidize education debt of people with valuable degrees, so rebutting what you had just said. But beyond that, there are critics who are saying that this is not about the pandemic. It’s not about those conditions. That this is about getting people to vote ahead of the midterms and that the real national emergency is Democrats in the midterm elections.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (49:39)
Well, I mean, I disagree with everything that you just laid out. I was just asked a question by some Democrats who are saying that they’re not happy with this, who are criticizing this. And we have said, we’re not going to make everybody happy. And so if you’re not making everybody happy, you cannot say that what you just laid out certainly cannot be the case either. Look, here’s what I will say. And this is just what we have laid out about this program. This is historical, what we’re doing. It has never been done before. When you look at the system, the system is broken and we’re trying to reform it so that we can help people who really need it. The way that this President has done this, he’s done it in a targeted way, so it helps. It doesn’t give a penny to anybody making more than… Let me finish. More than 125,000.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (50:36)
And if you look at the Pell Grant recipients, Pell Grant recipients, we’re talking about people… Again, and I’ve said this multiple times in this briefing room today, and we said it multiple times yesterday. $60,000 household. We’re talking about a $60,000 household and cut in half, right? We’re talking about people, Pell Grant recipients that are at $30,000 household. I mean, that’s the people that we are going to help. Again, nurses, construction workers, when you think about the reform. I mean, we’ve just gone back. You’ve made your point. I’ve made my point. I’m going to move on because we are actually running out of time. Go ahead. Way in the back. Go ahead. No. Way in the back. Owen. Owen. And then next to Owen.

Owen: (51:19)
Thank you. Good afternoon, Karine. Thank you. I want to take your attention to Nicaragua, if you would please. Daniel Ortega’s regime just abducted a Catholic Bishop, throwing priests and seminarians in prison. They’re shutting down Catholic media outlets. I’m sure the White House is aware of this latest persecution of Catholics there in Nicaragua. What’s the White House response to these latest developments?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (51:39)
So there has been a dramatic deterioration of respect for democratic principles and human rights by the regime in Nicaragua, including the imprisonment of democratic leaders, members of the political opposition, students and journalists, the Biden-Harris administration finds this unacceptable and condemns these actions. The United States and members of the international community have already taken a number of actions to promote accountability for the regime’s actions and will continue to do so. I’m just going to move around because… Go ahead. Good. Sat next to Owen.

Speaker 10: (52:17)
You said that the administration is working to crack down on colleges for increasing costs as high as they have been. So specifically, looking at how you guys are working with state and local governments to lessen the burden for future students for the next generation.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (52:36)
The actions the President announced yesterday benefits borrowers, including future borrowers, by cutting monthly payments in half. This is the reform that I was talking about just a moment ago. And that’s important when we’re talking about… I had some examples here that I can use in a second. But when we’re talking about construction workers, when we’re talking about nurses. We actually had this in our fact sheets. That was really important as well. So if you think about construction workers in particular, who is making 38,000 a year – and this is going to be for future folks as well – a year with a construction management credential would pay only $31 a month compared to the $147 they would pay now. That’s an annual savings of nearly $1,400. This is because we are reforming the income-driven repayment. That’s why we’re able to do that, go from 10% down to 5%. A single public school teacher making 44,000 a year would pay only $56 a month on their loans compared to the $197 they pay now. That would mean an annual savings of nearly $1,700.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (53:52)
A nurse making 77,000 a year, who is married with two kids, would pay only 61% a month compared to the $295 they pay now. That’s an annual savings of more than $2,800. This is what we’re talking about. Reforming a system that’s broken for people who are really truly needed. This is why we said we did this in a targeted way, and a current or future borrowers making roughly the equivalent of $15 minimum wage won’t have to make any payments at all. So this is what we’re talking about, and this is why this is so important. Again, to give people a little bit more of a breathing room, and I’m going to go to you, Joey, I don’t want to miss you.

Speaker 10: (54:34)
Are state and local governments on this to help-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (54:37)
Well, the Secretary of Education and his team certainly will be, to do that, and have been when we talk about cracking down. I think that was originally your question. And so this is clearly something that the Department of Education is focused on.

Speaker 11: (54:52)
Will the administration eventually release the cost estimate on the student loan forgiveness plan? In other words, you don’t have one yet, but moving down the road, will…

Karine Jean-Pierre: (55:05)
Yeah. I mean, that is something that the Department of Education is going to lead, because this is an action that clearly was taken by the Department of Education. I don’t have any more to speak on to that, just relay back to what the Ambassador said yesterday.

Speaker 11: (55:27)
And then secondly, what was giving President Biden hesitance about doing this program earlier or the student loan forgiveness earlier this year? In other words, he dragged out this decision for a long time. Was he concerned about inflation? Why didn’t he make this call back in April?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (55:42)
Well, he wanted to do it in a fiscally balanced way. And there was that legal review. I mean, I remember when you guys were asking us this question. We wanted to make sure the legal review was done. That is up on the-

Speaker 11: (55:54)
So it’s just a matter of getting the legal authority?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (55:57)
I think that’s part of it. That’s part of it, getting the legal authority. Another part of it is making sure that he listens to everybody. His economic team. He has conversations with congressional members. He has making sure that he hears from all the important voices as it comes to this issue, and so that is something that the President did. He made a campaign promise and he wanted to stick to that campaign promise, which he did. And he actually exceeded that promise because of those conversations that he was able to have.

Speaker 11: (56:29)

Karine Jean-Pierre: (56:29)
No problem. I’m going to take two more. I’m going to take two more. Matt, and then I’ll go back one more again.

Matt: (56:35)
You’ve said a couple times that this is a fiscally responsible way of doing this, but can you explain a little bit about how you guys think it is fiscally responsible? Because you can’t say how much it’s going to cost, you can’t say exactly how it’s going to be paid for, and you can’t say exactly who is paying for the cost. I get how you’re arguing that it helps certain populations, but how is it fiscally responsible?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (56:59)
I mean, the way that we are talking about it and what we’re trying to say is the actions that we have taken ,and you see this with the way that the deficit has been reduced, we have taken just the last 19 months… I see that look that you’re giving me there.

Matt: (57:16)
Well, I hear that argument that you have taken previous fiscally responsible actions that believe you will give you more wiggle room to be less-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (57:25)
No, no, no, no, no. I mean, we do not see this as irresponsible. We see this as a fiscally responsible, balanced approach to doing this. And I remember people have said, “Why don’t you do 50,000?” We don’t want to do that because we want to make sure that we do this in a fiscally responsible way. Again, not pleasing everyone, but making sure that we keep that promise, but also do it in a smart, fiscally responsible way. Again, I’m going to use that word because that is what our process has been. And I use the example of the 350 billion in deficit reduction and the 1.7 trillion reduction in deficit with everything that we’ve been able to do. The American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, and we are still by the end of this fiscal year will be at 1.7 trillion in deficit. All of those things matter, and that’s the way that we look at it.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (58:21)
I’m going to take one more.

Matt: (58:22)
[inaudible 00:58:22] policies from this one-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (58:24)
No, but I’m just saying that this is the actions that we have taken to show that we are taking this very, very seriously. I’m going to go around. Matt, we can go back and forth on it. We can go back and forth on it. I was supposed to go to Chris in the back and I skipped him, so I’m going to go back to Chris.

Chris: (58:44)
My question is about the Marriage Bill that is in the Senate.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (58:46)
You’re not being respectful. Go ahead. To your colleagues. To your own colleagues. As you see, I jump… Okay, go ahead. Respect your colleagues. Respect your colleagues. Go ahead, Chris.

Chris: (59:00)
My question is, will the President reach out to Senator Schumer about scheduling a vote on that Marriage Bill when the lawmakers return from recess?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (59:09)
I’m sorry, Chris. You’re going to have to start from the beginning because there was some disrespect happening.

Chris: (59:14)
[inaudible 00:59:14] pieces of legislation for lawmakers [inaudible 00:59:17] they left upon Senate recess.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (59:18)
You’re being disrespectful. Go ahead.

Chris: (59:21)
The Marriage Bill. Will Senator Schumer reach out for… Will the President reach out to Senator Schumer for a vote on the legislation when all lawmakers return from recess?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (59:30)
So is the President going to… Just make sure I heard this right. Is the President going to reach out to Senator Schumer for a vote?

Chris: (59:36)

Karine Jean-Pierre: (59:36)
Okay. So as you know, we are constantly in conversation with Congress, members of Congress. This is something that we put out a SAP when it first passed the House, supporting the Marriage Equality Bill. This is in incredibly important to the President. You heard from him back in I believe 2012 when he was one of the first voices to talk about how important marriage equality was, being ahead of many others. He has been an advocate for the community. He will continue to be an advocate for the community. So because of that SAP, it showed our support, saying this is something that we want to see pass. I’m not going to get into private conversations that we have had, but certainly that SAP that we put out shows how committed we are and how much we want to see that happen. Folks, I will see you tomorrow.

Chris: (01:00:32)
[inaudible 01:00:32] for a religious accommodation, to get the 60 votes that’d be necessary to end the filibuster, to get the process moving. Does the administration see value in such an amendment to the Bill?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (01:00:40)
Say that one more time.

Chris: (01:00:41)
There’s talk about an amendment to the Bill that would allow for some sort of religious accommodations in order to get the 60 votes to get the Bill advanced. Does the administration can see value in that?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (01:00:51)
So as you know, we’ve always said we leave the mechanics of the Senate or Congress – in this case, the Senate – to the Senate and the leadership, but we’ll continue to have those conversations. This is an issue that is – and you know this, Chris – tremendously important to this President. Guys, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Speaker 12: (01:01:11)
One single question.

Speaker 13: (01:01:12)
Why the White House is silent on Afghanistan?

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