Apr 26, 2022
Press Briefing with Press Secretary Jen Psaki 4/25/22 Transcript
Press Briefing with Press Secretary Jen Psaki 4/25/22. Read the transcript here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Jen Psaki: (00:02)
Okay. There’s nothing happening in the world today, I hear so this should be a quick one. I have a couple of items for you at the top, as usual. Over the past year, businesses have been dealing with frequent rail delays and poor service, which is stranded shipments of grain, fertilizer, ethanol and other critical commodities across the country. This breakdown in service has also forced grain shippers to pay thousands of extra dollars to guarantee service. On Friday, our administration took emergency action to get goods moving faster and lower shipping costs. The Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, acted on a bipartisan basis to help bring relief to American businesses that ship their goods by freight rail. Basically what they did is this emergency rule would allow it to address situations where a monopoly railroad isn’t providing adequate service and show an alternative railroad to step in. If a business wants to move their goods and the railroad that they are contracted with isn’t allowing them to move them quickly, this will allow them to have some flexibility, hopefully allowing the movement of more goods, getting them on shelves, lowering costs.
Jen Psaki: (01:11)
Also wanted to note that while the President is doing everything in his power to lower prices for American families, the Federal Reserve plays an important role, as you all know, in fighting inflation, which is why it’s so important that we have all of the seats filled on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors. Today and this week as Congress returns, we’re taking a big step forward toward filling these seats with the nominations of Lael Brainard and Lisa Cook, making their way to the Senate floor. We call on the Senate to confirm Dr. Brainard and Dr. Cook and we also call on the Senate to swiftly take up Jerome Powell and Philip Jefferson’s nominations this week as well. These nominees are eminently qualified, ready to get to work and deserve bipartisan support. They also will make history. Lisa Cook would become the first Black woman to ever serve on the board of governors and Philip Jefferson will be only the fourth Black man to serve on the board of governors.
Jen Psaki: (02:01)
Finally, the VA announced today, new actions to expand disability and health benefits to veterans suffering from nine rare respiratory cancers. Supporting our veterans is a critical part of the President’s unity agenda. And with this step, the President is continuing to deliver on the sacred obligation we have to our nation’s veterans. The President urges Congress to pass by partisan legislation to comprehensively address toxic exposures and further delay the vital benefits our veterans have earned.
Jen Psaki: (02:31)
Andrea, welcome back. Peter, welcome from book leave. Now they’re going to ask me especially hard questions. Zeke, go ahead.
Hey Jen. Secretary Austin said earlier this morning that the US wants to quote, “See Russia weaken to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” He said that regards to Russian military losses, quote, “We want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.” Is it US policy now to permanently degrade the Russian military?
Jen Psaki: (03:01)
Well, I think what Secretary Austin in his press conference was referring to, it was the fact if you go back about two months ago, remember President Putin gave a speech where he talked about the aspirations, his aspirations, the aspirations he had for the Russian military, which were to degrade Ukraine of course, to subsume Ukraine, to take over their sovereignty, their territorial integrity. Of course they haven’t succeeded at that but to go beyond that. What Secretary Austin was talking about is our objective to prevent that from happening. Obviously right now, the war is in Ukraine. We’re proud of the Ukrainians’ success, their efforts to fight back, to push back on the Russian military, thanks to their bravery but also to our support. But yes, we are also looking to prevent them from expanding their efforts and President Putin’s objectives beyond that too.
Is there any concern in the White House that that sort of rhetoric plays into their domestic message, to their audience about the West is out trying to get us and contain us? That by saying you’re trying to weaken the Russian military is essentially strengthening Putin’s hand at home?
Jen Psaki: (04:11)
No, I would say it’s consistent with our view and the President’s view and Secretary Austin’s view that we are going to do everything we can to push back on President Putin’s aspirations, to subsume Ukraine, to take over their territorial integrity and their sovereignty and aspirations he had as of two months ago to go beyond that.
Congress is backed in town today. The President last week said he’s going to go back to Congress, looking for additional supplemental Ukraine funding. Do you have a dollar figure for how much the President is that going ask for? How long that money would last?
Jen Psaki: (04:41)
Sure. Not quite yet. He is expect he’ll have consultations and conversations with military leadership and of course, leadership from the State Department over the course of the coming days. I expect it will be something later in the week and expect it will be a longer term package or proposal. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (04:58)
Just a quick one on the breaking news, Twitter agreeing to let Elon Musk purchase, go through with this purchase. Do you have a response to that? And does the White House have any concern that this new agreement might have President Trump back on the platform?
Jen Psaki: (05:12)
Well, I’m not going to comment on a specific transaction. What I can tell you as a general matter, no matter who owns or runs Twitter, the President has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms. The power they have over our everyday lives has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms they cause. He’s been a strong supporter of fundamental reforms to achieve that goal, including reforms to Section 230, enacting antitrust reforms, requiring more transparency and more. And he’s encouraged that there’s bipartisan interest in Congress. In terms of what hypothetical policies might happen, I’m just not going to speak to that at this point in time.
Speaker 2: (05:52)
On the situation at the border and Title 42, Congresswoman McCaul said this weekend, that Secretary Mayorkas has expressed some frustration directly to him about how the administration is ending Title 42. He says, the Secretary is saying that the border patrol, Catholic charities are already overwhelmed. Has the Secretary raised these concerns with President Biden? And are these concerns that the White House shares?
Jen Psaki: (06:17)
Well, I think it’s important to remember that Title 42 is not an immigration policy or an immigration authority. It’s a health authority. Yes, it was coordinated with the secretary of Homeland Security and through an inter-agency process. And there’s been planning in the works for months for this possibility that the CDC to take this action. Secretary Mayorkas is going to be testifying later this week, multiple times. I’m sure he will answer that question and multiple other questions and I will let him speak for himself. But I would just note that we’re continuing to prepare for May 23rd and the implementation and there is a multi-part strategy that Secretary Mayorkas has been leading and overseeing for the past several months.
Speaker 2: (06:58)
But has he raised these concerns with the President?
Jen Psaki: (06:59)
I’m not going to get into private conversations but I think again, it’s important to note, this is a CDC decision and authority about when we had the health conditions to lift Title 42. It wasn’t an indication of an immigration policy.
Speaker 2: (07:13)
Do you not believe that there will not be a surge as a result of Title 42 being lifted?
Jen Psaki: (07:17)
Well, the Department of Homeland Security has projected that there could be an increase in people coming to the border and that’s why they’ve had a six part, multi-part plan and proposal and policy they’ve been implementing for months now to prepare for that.
Speaker 2: (07:28)
Is Title 42 and the potential and to it, the reason that the congressional Hispanic caucus is meeting with the President?
Jen Psaki: (07:33)
No. Actually, if you may remember, the President has been meeting with a number of the caucuses from Congress, from the congressional Black caucus, he met with CAPAC. He’s been meeting with all of the caucuses, as he did last year. This has been a meeting that’s been in the works for some time. Immigration, certainly we expect to be a part of it but we expect it to be an expansive meeting. And I would note the CHC has a stated view on policy on Title 42. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (08:00)
One of the members of the CHC center, Catherine Cortez Masco, and she said of the Title 42 decision that this is the wrong way to do this and will leave the administration unprepared for a surge at the border. Obviously this is a subject that’s likely to come up in this meeting today. What is the President’s message primarily, especially to these Western and border state Democrats who are concerned about both the impact on immigration as a policy matter but also the political fallout as well?
Jen Psaki: (08:22)
I think our view and the President’s view is that we have a broken immigration system that’s been long overdue to be fixed. He agrees with that and he’s certainly happy to discuss that during this meeting or any other meeting he has with members of Congress but this is not an immigration policy. This Title 42 is a health authority that’s determined by the CDC and we need to have a conversation about immigration reform. That’s vital. Maybe this is a reminder of that.
Speaker 3: (08:50)
Whenever the administration has been asked about immigration reform, the answer seems to be the President introduced a bill in the first week in office but there’s not much more than that. Is this an opportunity for the administration to try to move something forward this year? Or do you believe that campaign politics just preclude the likelihood of getting to it?
Jen Psaki: (09:05)
Well, we welcome that opportunity but I’d also remind you that we were supportive of efforts to include some components of immigration reform in the reconciliation packages. And we’ve been looking for avenues to move it forward and been supportive of efforts by Democratic senators to do exactly that.
Speaker 3: (09:20)
Is there a specific ask of Congress related to Title 42? That was the position that was articulated last week, that this is not a decision for the President to make but for Congress to make. What is the decision that Congress should be making?
Jen Psaki: (09:32)
That is a discussion we’ll have with members of Congress. We are continuing to prepare to implement the lifting of Title 42, a decision that was made by the CDC. I would note that there are a range of views on Title 42. There are some you noted, who are very vocal about how they would like to see it extended. There are some who are very vocal about how they would not like to see that happen. That’s an important discussion that will be happening over the coming days and weeks. Hi, Jackie.
Thank you, Jen. I don’t believe the White House so far has commented on the death of Bishop Evans, the 22 year old National Guard specialist who drowned trying to save two migrants. Wanted to give you the opportunity to say some words on it.
Jen Psaki: (10:08)
Yes, thank you for that, Jackie. And the news of the confirmation that his body had been found was confirmed just a couple of hours ago. I would note that, of course our heart goes out to his family and to his loved ones. To confirm all the specific details, he went missing on Friday, following his selfless efforts to rescue two migrants who appeared to be drowning, who were trying to cross a river and Mexico that went into the US, of course. We know that National Guard personnel, including him, risk their lives every day to serve and protect others. And again, our hearts go out to his family. In case you may ask, I don’t have any updates at this moment in terms of the President’s outreach, but if that is something I can update you on this afternoon, I will let you know.
Does the White House feel any responsibility for his death given that there’s reporting that he lost his life allegedly trying to save two migrants who were smuggling drugs? This is a problem that the administration has been facing for some time and is obviously, as we’ve been discussing, getting some criticism on. Does the White House feel at all responsible? And what more can you offer to people who are on the border in border communities who are experiencing loss and trials like this?
Jen Psaki: (11:26)
Well, of course we are mourning the loss of his life and we are grateful for the work of every National Guardsman. I would note that the National Guard work for the states and so he is an employee of the Texas National Guard and his efforts and his operation were directed by there, not by the federal government in this effort, in this apparatus. We’ve long stated that our immigration system is broken. There needs to be more done to invest in smarter security, to have a more effective asylum processing system and we would welcome any efforts for any elected officials to work with us on that.
A lot of these border communities often…
Jen Psaki: (12:03)
… elected officials to work with us on that.
A lot of the border communities often say that they’ve requested more from the federal government, more manpower to help manage these kinds of these kinds of issues. Is that being looked at? Is that being…
Jen Psaki: (12:16)
Can you give me a more specific request or specific person?
You mentioned that this specialist was a National Guard. Obviously the states are in charge of that. But there have been requests from the Texas governor to help people who are in this position at the border, who are now trying to deal with the influx of migrants, that they know is going to only increase, as you just mentioned, after Title 42 is lifted. You talked about having a humanitarian sort of system in place to deal with people coming across and increase vaccinations and that kind of thing. But in terms of law enforcement presence at the border.
Jen Psaki: (12:58)
Well, I would just say if we just dial it back a few years to kind of what we inherited here, the former president invested billions of dollars in a border wall that was never going to work or be effective, instead of working towards comprehensive immigration reform. As part of the President’s proposal he put forward on his first day in office, he proposed investing in smarter security at the border. Something he’d be happy to work with governors on, and certainly we’re open to having that conversation whenever they’re ready to do that. Go ahead, [Viesa 00:13:26].
Jen, just more broadly on the Ukrainian aid.
Jen Psaki: (13:28)
Since the Russian invasion started, the US has provided more than $5 billion total, when you factor in military economic humanitarian aid. Is there a figure that is a cap for what the US is willing and able to provide Ukraine?
Jen Psaki: (13:47)
Well, I would say that the range of military assistance that we’ve provided to date was meant to be front loaded because of our expectation or anticipation, led by our Department of Defense and military leaders, about the nature of the fight and how it has evolved. That because they’re on a terrain now where they’re in need of long range military capacity, we’ve tried to expedite the assistance over the past couple of weeks that they’re receiving. So it might not be over the next couple of weeks, the same size of assistance week by week, but in terms of what the next package will look like and what will be passed, I mean, those are discussions and recommendations that the President will get from his military leaders. We’ll have those discussions with Congress. I’m not in a position to put a cap on it at this point in time.
Okay. Got it. And then just switching over to COVID. The administration is planning to take new actions to expand Paxlovid. Is there anything you can share about how you plan to do that and who might be eligible since right now, it’s only for people who are at higher risk?
Jen Psaki: (14:48)
Sure. Well, part of it is even people who are eligible are not taking advantage of the fact that they’re eligible. So part of our effort is to share more information publicly about who can get access, who can call their doctor and get access to it. I will tell you, Dr. Jha is going to make his debut in the briefing room tomorrow. So he will lay out for you and others more specifically, all the steps we’re taking to increase knowledge of Paxlovid, who can benefit from it. I don’t think we’re intending to, and I’ll let him speak to this, say there’s going to be an expansion of who’s eligible, and I’ll obviously leave that to the health experts to determine, but more, we need to focus on making sure that everybody who is eligible knows they’re eligible and they can gain access to it because it is very effective in treating COVID.
Thank you, Jen.
Jen Psaki: (15:35)
Speaker 4: (15:36)
Yeah, just a couple on Twitter. I want to go back and try again. Are you concerned about the kind of purveyors of election misinformation, disinformation, health falsehoods, sort of having more of an opportunity to speak there on Twitter? Is there any message that you would convey to Elon Musk as the new owner?
Jen Psaki: (16:00)
Well, I would just-
Speaker 4: (16:01)
And maybe just add to it that publicly traded companies, there’s different levels of scrutiny that are possible of publicly traded companies. So are you concerned about a billionaire taking control of a company where there’s a lot of concentration of power?
Jen Psaki: (16:23)
I would say that our concerns are not new. We’ve long talked about, and the President has long talked about his concerns about the power of social media platforms, including Twitter and others to spread misinformation, disinformation, the need for these platforms to be held accountable. Well, I know you tried again. I appreciate that. I still don’t have a specific comment on this specific transaction. And at this point, we don’t have any sense of what the policies will look like.
Speaker 4: (16:53)
Okay. And then last week, Daleeb Singh made some very strong comments and also to Treasury Secretary Yellen made some comments about the positive impact on inflation of lowering tariffs on certain Chinese goods; bicycles, underwear, apparel.
Jen Psaki: (17:14)
It’s quite a list.
Speaker 4: (17:15)
Yeah. Quite a list. Is there something cooking? Can you tell us something, and to you, is The White House embracing that? Is that something we could see happen soon?
Jen Psaki: (17:24)
So from the beginning of the administration, we talked about how some of the tariffs implemented by the previous administration were not strategic and instead raised cost on Americans. And our effort, which has been ongoing of course, has been to ensure current Section 301 tariffs align appropriately with a, our economic and trade priorities. And you mentioned different goods that are sold, but of course, on wages and job opportunities, critical supply chains, where we see impacts on critical supply change, our ability to sustain our technical logical edge, this is an ongoing process. And we’re certainly looking at where we see costs being raised. In a time where we’re seeing heightened inflation, certainly that’s on our minds. It’s also about addressing the core issues we have with how China has approached their engagement around economic issues as well. So it’s both.
Speaker 4: (18:18)
So can we look for some tariff rejections in some relatively short period of time?
Jen Psaki: (18:24)
We’re continuing to review it. I don’t have anything at this moment to preview for you, but our focus is on those same categories and areas, where we think they’re impacting wages and job opportunities, our technological, that’s the prism through which our economic team. Ambassador [inaudible 00:18:42], of course, is leading this effort, is reviewing these sanctions.
Speaker 4: (18:48)
Just a real quick one on Putin. So the sanctions that have been imposed and I realize they’re quite sweeping and large, especially on oligarchs and other people close to Putin, have thus far excluded his girlfriend, whose name I can’t quite pronounce. Kabaeva. Do you have any comment on why you would refrain from sanctioning someone arguably close to Putin?
Jen Psaki: (19:11)
Well, I would remind you, we are continuing to review sanctions. No one is safe from our sanctions. We’ve already of course sanction President Putin, but also his daughter, his closest cronies, and will continue to review more. So I don’t have analysis at this point because we’re still reviewing. There’s more we will likely do. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (19:30)
Jen, on just the broader strategy of helping Ukraine, there’s obviously hurting Russia economically, hurting Russia militarily. Given that the us has rolled out so many economic sanctions already against Russia and the heavy fighting that we’re seeing now, should we expect that the help that the US offers Ukraine going forward would be more heavily militarily focused as opposed to economic, or is that the wrong way of looking at it? It’s sort of all of the above.
Jen Psaki: (19:57)
No. I understand your question. I think these are all discussions that we are having through the interagency and there’ll be a recommendation made to the President. I mean, there’s no question they need additional military assistance. As part of Secretary Austin’s follow up to his trip to Ukraine, he was in Germany today meeting to discuss kind of the next steps and what their needs are, as the battle and the war continues to evolve. But they are also going to have significant humanitarian and economic needs as well. So I would expect that all of them will continue to be touched on, but these are the discussions that are happening in the interagency process now.
Speaker 5: (20:34)
And is there any new updated US assessment on any discontent or disagreement within Putin’s top advisors or inner circle about the direction of the war?
Jen Psaki: (20:47)
I don’t have any assessment I can read out from here, any new assessment.
Speaker 5: (20:51)
And just one more on a different topic, just on inflation, given that it continues to be such a big concern for so many people. The President obviously, doesn’t have the luxury of wandering outside The White House. He can’t go fill up his car or go to the grocery store. Can you give us a sense of how he sort of is updated every day, how he gets a sense of how much does milk cost more today than a week ago? Just how does he sort of keep up to date on how much more expensive things are for the average American?
Jen Psaki: (21:20)
I can assure you that the President sees himself as the kid from Scranton, more than many people who work in his administration. And he is often the person who reminds people and members of his policy team in meetings what the impacts of rising food costs or gasoline costs or other issues are. He does request and receive regular updates from his economic team. And often when he returns from weekends at home in Delaware, he comes back with conversations he had with people as he came out of church, or people he’s known for a long time in his community, and they often tell him about how the rising costs impact his life. So I would say that he stays abreast of these changes and of these increases in costs and the impacts through economic data and briefings, but also through his own conversations whenever he can have them.
Speaker 6: (22:07)
Jen Psaki: (22:07)
Speaker 6: (22:09)
I have a quick question here about falling the recent Palestinian terror attacks from the Temple Mount and previous week of attacks that have killed many Israelis and wounded more, is the Biden administration reconsidering its support of the Palestinian authorities’ two state solution dividing Israel, were stopping the welfare payments sent to the Palestinian authority who used the money for their paid a slave reward system? And have I hae a follow up question.
Jen Psaki: (22:35)
Okay. Well, I would just note that I spoke to this last week on Wednesday, where I noted that the United States is deeply concerned by the recent violence in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and across the West Bank. And we also strongly condemn the recent rocket attack on Israel. You may or may not have seen also that the President conducted a call with Prime Minister Bennett on Sunday morning. He accepted an invitation by Prime Minister Bennett to visit Israel in the coming months, no specific date yet. He took note of the ongoing efforts between Israeli and Palestinian officials to lower tensions and ensure a peaceful conclusion to the holy season of Ramadan. And he also affirmed our unwavering support for Israel and its defense needs, and welcomed the historic $1 billion allocation to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system.
Speaker 6: (23:23)
Okay. The follow-up is in view of continued Palestinian violence against innocent civilians, is the Biden administration willing to stop payments to the anti-Semitic UN agency UNRWA, and support restoring the Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania to its former glory?
Jen Psaki: (23:36)
Again, I don’t have any changes to announce to our policy. I spoke to our condemnation of the violence just now and and last week as well, and noted also our call to the prime minister. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (23:47)
I wanted clarification on the aid that the US has already allocated to Ukraine.
Jen Psaki: (23:52)
Speaker 7: (23:52)
The President said last week, that he had almost exhausted his draw down ability. So how much after that announcement of the $800 million on Thursday, does the US have left to provide-
Speaker 7: (24:03)
… of the 800 million on Thursday does the US have left to provide Ukraine?
Jen Psaki: (24:04)
I’m sure I can get you this specific exact number. It was almost about 3.5 billion total of draw down authority, I believe. I will double check that number for you. So what he was referring to is because of how quickly we’ve been moving the military assistance to the Ukrainians on the ground, we anticipated being almost at a near end of that draw down authority. So that’s why he’s going to put forward a new package this week.
Speaker 7: (24:30)
And on student debt cancellation, yesterday Senator Elizabeth Warren said that the White House has essentially already canceled some student debt by waving interest on that student debt and it could use that same exact authority to cancel student debt permanently. Does the White House agree with that view? And this is about the authority, not whether you will, but that you can derive the authority in the same exact way.
Jen Psaki: (24:52)
I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of any authority or how it would work. What I would tell you is that not a single person in this country has paid a dime on federal student loans since the president took office. And what we have said is that he would make a decision about any cancellation of student debt before the conclusion of that pause on student loans. But I don’t have anything to preview for you at this point in time.
Speaker 7: (25:15)
[inaudible 00:25:15] on that, she said that it was an issue of racial equity. Does the White House view this as a racial equity issue?
Jen Psaki: (25:22)
Well again, I think the president views student loan relief, debt relief as something that impacts … yes, it is a racial equity issue, but it is also an issue that impacts many individuals, young people, middle aged people of all races. It is something that has been a vital priority to the president, which again is why not a single person has paid a penny, a dime, a dime or a penny in student loans since he took office. Go ahead, JJ. I don’t want to forget. Go ahead.
Oh, thanks. Two questions on the supplemental funding.
Jen Psaki: (25:54)
And then one on Cedric Richmond.
Jen Psaki: (25:55)
On the supplemental, has the administration decided to definitely combine the COVID funding with the aid for Ukraine?
Jen Psaki: (26:03)
We don’t have the mechanism yet. These are conversations that we’ll have with Congress. Obviously prior to the recess there was the proposal that did combine, but don’t have a sense yet.
And then is the White House considering extending the title 42 immigration restrictions as part of a deal with Congress? Are you considering that?
Jen Psaki: (26:23)
Again, this would be Congress having the discussion. We’re continuing to prepare for a May 23rd implementation. There’ll be a range of conversations about this over the coming days.
The New York Times is reporting that Senator Richmond is leaving. Is he? And just last week he said publicly that he wouldn’t leave unless the president asked him to. So something changed there?
Jen Psaki: (26:45)
Yes. Okay, well let me first say that Cedric Richmond has been, continues to be a vital, essential advisor to the president, was on the campaign, continues to be in the White House. I have been in many meetings with Cedric Richmond where the president goes to him and looks to him for his political sense, his assessment of Congress. He trusts him implicitly. I have nothing to announce at this point, but I can assure you when we have something to announce it will involve a new, important role for Cedric Richmond and something the president is excited about and has asked him to do. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (27:19)
We saw the readout from the call with the French president. Did the president see any larger meaning in the French elections in terms of this tour of the allied effort [inaudible 00:27:30]?
Jen Psaki: (27:31)
I don’t have any assessment of that. I’ll leave that to others to do analysis. The president was pleased with the outcome. As you know, he spoke with president Macron this morning and he’s looking forward to continuing to work with him and standing up against Russian aggression and standing with Ukrainian people.
Speaker 9: (27:48)
Along those lines, [inaudible 00:27:50] tweeted an interesting observation that president Macron secured a double digit victory at a time when his approval rating was 36%. Was there anything he was suggesting there?
Jen Psaki: (28:01)
I don’t have any more analysis to provide on that front, though appreciate the question. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (28:05)
On NATO, reports in Finland and Sweden say that the two countries are preparing to apply to join NATO as early as next month. Is the White House supportive of that effort?
Jen Psaki: (28:16)
Well, those are decisions for these countries to make and for the NATO alliance to make. So we’ll leave it to those entities.
Speaker 8: (28:23)
And just with gun violence, we learned more about Friday’s shooter today from DC police who say he had hundreds of rounds of unspent ammo inside his Connecticut avenue apartment. And then today, the DC mayor announced a new police initiative to target violent crime. Does the president believe he’s done all he can do to fight violent crime, gun issues around this country without the intervention of Congress?
Jen Psaki: (28:52)
Well, he will continue to look for every authority he has to take steps to address gun violence, violent crimes across the country. The last time we had data was in 2020, I believe. And at that time, about 77% of homicides were done with a firearm. And you saw him talk two weeks ago now … it’s all running together, but two weeks ago now I believe about ghost guns in the steps that he is going to continue to take to address ghost guns, which we have seen have a rising role in gun deaths and gun targeting over the past several months.
Jen Psaki: (29:29)
I would also note that then, when he was doing that event, he highlighted that two LA Sheriff’s deputies who had been wounded by a shooter using a ghost gun. So that’s just even an example of how even these ghost guns are being used to target police as well, which is also a problem. So I would say of course there are significant steps that Congress can take that would make these laws permanent. That is the president’s first preference, whether it’s background checks, banning assault weapons. These are laws that he has led the effort to pass throughout his career, many decades, but he will continue to look for any steps he can take using his own authorities as he has done several times since taking office. I think he’s done more than any other president using executive authority. Go ahead.
Speaker 10: (30:09)
Thanks Jen. Two questions for you. President Biden made his first endorsement for the midterm election cycle on Saturday, endorsing Congressman Kurt Schrader. Why did he decide to weigh in on this race first? And what would you say to some progressives who are frustrated that he endorsed the Schrader over his opponent?
Jen Psaki: (30:28)
I certainly understand your question. I don’t make the rules, but the rules are I can’t speak a lot about politics from here. So I would point to the DNC and I would point you to Congressman Schrader’s office.
Speaker 10: (30:38)
Next question for you. There’s been a fair bit of speculation about Vladimir Putin’s health based on recent videos of him. Has the White House made an assessment on this matter and have concerns been raised internally at all about this topic?
Jen Psaki: (30:50)
I don’t have any assessment to offer from here or any particular comment on the mental health of President Putin. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (30:56)
Yeah, Jen, back to title 42 quickly.
Jen Psaki: (30:58)
Speaker 11: (30:58)
I want to make sure I’m understanding what you’re saying today. I hear you talking about discussions going forward, the debate that’s happening, all of that. Are you saying that title 42 … I know you’re prepared to lift the current policy May 23rd. Are you saying that will happen unless Congress acts or are you saying the White House might do something else?
Jen Psaki: (31:16)
Congress would have to take action in order or for the date not to be May 23rd.
Speaker 11: (31:20)
On Hunter Biden, the New York Post is reporting, looking at White House visitor logs there were 19 visits to the White House while the president was vice president by Hunter Biden’s business partner, including one with the vice president. Can you help us understand why that business partner had access and what those meetings were about?
Jen Psaki: (31:37)
I don’t have any information on that. I’m happy to check and see if we have any more comment.
Speaker 11: (31:41)
Former Senator David Perdue last night, hoping to be a Senator again, opened his debate by saying that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen. We know that most courts have ruled that it was fair. There’s no evidence of fraud, but I wonder what you make of those comments and has the White House done enough to push back and to make it clear that the election was not stolen?
Jen Psaki: (32:03)
I think that speaks to the former president’s hold over factions of the Republican party, not facts. Go ahead.
Speaker 12: (32:08)
Thank you so much, Jen. Two questions on Brazil. First, last Friday, President Biden said the United States and rich countries should be paying Brazil to protect the Amazon. And he said he’s trying to get this done. So what exactly is he trying to do? Is he trying to work with other rich countries negotiating with Brazil? Is he ready to provide financial support to Brazil? And how much would that be?
Jen Psaki: (32:32)
So in the president’s view, and the reason he made these comments, is that the science has only become more clear that the world needs to both strengthen and accelerate emissions reductions. And part of that goal includes conserving global forest ecosystems that remove carbon from the atmosphere and store more carbon than they emit in a year serving as carbon sinks. So President Biden recognized the necessity of mobilizing funding from world governments and the private sector. And the plan to conserve global forest, the critical carbon sinks launched at COP26 aims to mobilize finance from the public and private sector with a strong focus on levering private sector finance through market mechanism. So that’s what he was speaking to and certainly an effort he continues to support.
Speaker 12: (33:14)
And there is a delegation today from the state department in Brazil. I wonder if this trip has anything to do with the war in Ukraine and perhaps the United States seeking or interested in working with Brazil food and energy security.
Jen Psaki: (33:30)
I would really point to the state department. We are working with a range of countries, obviously on addressing where we see any food shortages around the world. And obviously Ukraine is front and center on the minds of most global leaders.
Speaker 12: (33:42)
Just a quick one. Why President Biden has declined to talk with President Bolsonaro? We know that the Brazilian government has been trying more than once. So why is he declining to –
Jen Psaki: (33:51)
I don’t have any update. The president obviously has a busy schedule. He has spoken with a range of global leaders, but not every single one. And you just noted the state department is in Brazil for a visit. So I would note we have an ongoing dialogue at a high level. Go ahead.
Speaker 13: (34:05)
Jen Psaki: (34:05)
Okay, either one. Okay. You’re kind of matching today. There you go, in your suits in blue.
Speaker 13: (34:13)
So more people are starting to talk about recession. Goldman Sachs and Bank of America alluded to it because of inflation. The steps that have been taken so far haven’t seemed to work to get inflation to come back down. What additional steps are you guys looking at to curb inflation as well as the feeling that the economy’s headed the wrong direction?
Jen Psaki: (34:33)
Well, I would say first there are number of strong economic indicators that we would point to. We created more jobs last year than any year in American history. The unemployment rate is at 3.6%. We know that costs are too high. Inflation, which the federal reserve has purview over, still projects that it will moderate by the end of the year. There are a number of steps they have and they have indicated they have the plans to recalibrate. We support that effort. They have a lot of power here in terms of taking steps to address inflation. The president is not waiting for that to happen and he’s taking steps to address where we see costs increasing in different areas that impact the American people’s pocket books, whether it’s gas prices, obviously he made an announcement to tap the strategic petroleum reserve, led an effort to release from globally to bring down gas prices. We’ve also taken steps to fix issues with our supply chain to make sure goods are moving as quickly as possible. And there’s a lot of interest, continues to be in Congress to take steps to lower costs on prescription drugs, healthcare, elder care, childcare. Those are all steps that are based on the president’s proposals.
Speaker 13: (35:47)
The president has pushed those spending proposals. The San Francisco federal reserve, at least a report –
Jen Psaki: (35:51)
They’d be fully paid for. So they’re not actually spending proposals. They’re proposals to lower costs that are fully paid for.
Speaker 13: (35:57)
The San Francisco federal reserve released a report saying that government spending accounted for 3% of the inflation that we’re seeing now. So it was spend –
Speaker 14: (36:03)
… we’ve been spending accounted for 3% of the inflation that we’re seeing now. Was spending more really the way to go?
Jen Psaki: (36:05)
Well, again, I think if you look back at where we were a year and a half ago, we were at the point where there was a significant economic downturn, where people were really suffering, struggling to put food on the table, certain people were out of work, and what we’ve done, what we did at that time, is take steps to help stem that economic downturn. That was a decision made that the president continues to believe was in the interest of the American people
Speaker 14: (36:29)
[inaudible 00:36:29] on China looking at more lockdowns now. Beijing may be involved in that. Is there anything that the administration is looking at doing to help the supply chains if this clogs up again?
Jen Psaki: (36:40)
Yeah. We’re following this very closely. As you know, there are a couple of different issues at play here. There’s obviously Shenzhen, which has kind of reopened. They had moved around where their goods were being produced and moved around which ports they were going through, Shanghai, obviously, and there are a couple of industries that were being impacted. We haven’t seen at this point a decrease in ships coming to our ports in California from Asia. We obviously are continuing to monitor that. Beijing has increased their testing, which could be a precursor to a lockdown, but we don’t know at this point. What we’re doing right now is we’re closely monitoring, the state department is, our economic team is, and, but we haven’t seen a slow down in ships coming to our ports in California. If there’s an increase as lockdowns decrease in some parts of China, we’ll also be prepared for that because we’ve been able to take steps to reduce the number of cargo ships there. Go ahead.
Speaker 15: (37:38)
[crosstalk 00:37:38] just one question, Jen. There’s been a lot of explosions and strange fires at quite significant places in Russia over the last couple weeks, just most recently in the city of Bryansk, as oil containers blew up. There’s a lot of speculation over what’s causing it. Obviously, one of the theories would be that Ukraine is somehow doing it. What is the US position on Ukraine attacking inside Russian territories? Is this something that the US would encourage them to do and try and help them do in terms of the weapons, or is it something maybe where you’d advise Ukrainians not to go there?
Jen Psaki: (38:13)
We don’t have any confirmation of that. Ukraine is defending their own country, so I’m just not going to speak to a hypothetical.
Speaker 15: (38:19)
[inaudible 00:38:19] not asking for confirmation on things that have happened. It’s just there’s obviously a lot of speculation, and it’s kind of an obvious point, right? They’re fighting the Russians tooth and nail inside their own country, quite often near the borders, and the Russians are inside their country. Is there a US position on whether Ukraine should have the right or maybe even be encouraged to take their fight beyond their border?
Jen Psaki: (38:40)
Again, that is a hypothetical, so I’m not going to speak to it. Ukraine’s country is bing invaded. Russia is invading their country. That’s what we’re supporting them for. There’s been no confirmation of what you’re detailing, so I’m just not going to speak to that. Go ahead.
Speaker 16: (38:53)
If I may, and we know the Congressional Hispanic Caucus members are here meeting with the president, I wonder if immigration and also Title 42 is being discussed. I don’t know how much you can reveal about that meeting that has taken place this afternoon.
Jen Psaki: (39:06)
I don’t have a read-out of the meeting at this point in time. I would note that this is part of the series of meetings, as I noted earlier, that the president is doing with a range of the caucuses in Congress. He did the Congressional Black Caucus, he did CAPAC, and he did these last year as well. We certainly expect immigration to be a topic of discussion, but I would note that the CHC also has a stated position on Title 42 as a caucus, which is that they oppose any change to the decisions that has been made. Anything could be discussed, but I wouldn’t anticipate that being a major topic.
Just on [crosstalk 00:39:42]-
Speaker 17: (39:42)
If I may on [inaudible 00:39:43]-
Jen Psaki: (39:42)
Sorry [inaudible 00:39:44] you’re next. Go ahead.
Speaker 17: (39:45)
If I may on Transnistria, there appears to have been some kind of attack on the Ministry of State Security. We know that Moscow has been talking about this area possibly entering the conflict. It seemed it happened on a holiday when there wouldn’t have been people in the building. Does this bear the hallmarks of a false-flag operation of the sort he’s been warning us about?
Jen Psaki: (40:06)
Yeah, I’ve seen the reports. Obviously, we have, of course, but I don’t have any confirmation of the specifics or the details at this point in time from here.
Speaker 23: (40:12)
[crosstalk 00:40:12] can I ask you a question on malaria [crosstalk 00:40:13].
Jen Psaki: (40:13)
Go ahead [crosstalk 00:40:13] your question.
Speaker 18: (40:13)
Yeah, I just have two. The first is with the CHC coming, some have wanted Biden, the administration to do more on executive actions related to immigration. I guess just philosophically, does the president believe that he’s exhausted most of the things that he can do through executive power? You had alluded earlier about the legislative push.
Jen Psaki: (40:35)
Speaker 18: (40:35)
Are there things that he feels like he could still do through executive actions related to immigration
Jen Psaki: (40:40)
I think his view is that taking steps and working with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that has smarter security, that does put in place an asylum-processing system that works is the best step that will have a lasting impact. Obviously, we’re continuing to assess any executive actions we can take, but he’ll, I think, continue to discuss legislative actions as well.
Jen [crosstalk 00:41:04]-
Speaker 18: (41:04)
Then secondly, you had mentioned this at the top about the toxic exposures and that the president wants comprehensive… I forget, comprehensive legislation to be passed. The House has passed a version related to this. The Senate has passed a version. The Senate version is sometimes criticized by advocates as not going far enough. Does the president have a stance on which piece of legislation he views as addressing this issue comprehensively? Is he getting involved in that? There’s other legislation that hasn’t been passed in the Senate that also grapples with this issue.
Jen Psaki: (41:37)
Sure. Obviously, as you know, now the next step is for both bodies of Congress to work together and figure out the path forward. We did issue a SAP on the PACT Act. Beyond that, I don’t think I have anything more to update you on, on that position.
Jen Psaki: (41:53)
[crosstalk 00:41:53] go ahead.
Speaker 18: (41:53)
Thanks, Jen. I had a question on Title 42, at the risk of this being a dumb question. If the CDC is able to extend Title 42, why is it up to Congress? Can you just help people understand why it’s on Congress to extend it and how [crosstalk 00:42:09]?
Jen Psaki: (42:09)
Sure. Congress gave the CDC authority to determine when the conditions would be met to lift Title 42, which, again, has never been an immigration authority or an immigration policy. It’s always been a health authority. When they determined we no longer had the conditions where we had to take action to quickly deport people who came to the country, they made that health decision based on data and science and the CDC decision making. Congress would need to make any decision about a change to the authority they gave the CDC.
Speaker 18: (42:41)
The CDC doesn’t have the authority to just say, “Things have changed [crosstalk 00:42:46]”?
Jen Psaki: (42:45)
If the health and data conditions changed, they could certainly make a different decision, sure, but they make decisions based on health and data, not based on politics or where members of Congress sit.
Another coronavirus question-
Jen Psaki: (43:01)
Speaker 19: (43:01)
Actually, a follow-up on that question and something that was asked earlier, is the president willing to sign something if it comes to his desk as part of a legislative package that would change the rules for how Title 42 is administered? Because if, in fact, it is up to Congress, ultimately, that would get to the president’s desk, and he would ultimately have to either sign it or veto it.
Jen Psaki: (43:28)
There’s a lot of steps between now and then. At this point, that’s very premature. There are many members who strongly would like to see Title 42 extended. There are many who strongly have the other point of view. We are not anywhere near that point in time. Go ahead.
Jen [inaudible 00:43:44]-
Speaker 20: (43:45)
The surgeon general has said that misinformation about COVID amounts to a public-health crisis. I’m wondering, regardless of ownership, would the White House be interested in working with Twitter, like it has in the past, to continue you to combat this kind of misinformation, or are we in a different part of the pandemic where that kind of partnership is no longer necessary?
Jen Psaki: (44:07)
Well, I think we engage regularly with all social-media platforms about steps that can be taken. That has continued, and I’m sure it will continue, but there are also reforms that we think Congress could take and we would support taking, including reforming Section 230, enacting antitrust reforms requiring more transparency, and the president is encouraged by the bipartisan support for… or engagement in those efforts.
Speaker 21: (44:41)
On the US and its allies in the Pacific, they’ve clearly been blindsided by China’s security pact with the Solomon Islands, a very strategic location in the Pacific. Kurt Campbell was down there only last week, and he announced some initiatives on speeding up the embassy there, sending a hospital boat, that sort of thing. The question is, why wouldn’t the US commit to far more significant security slash military initiatives in such a strategic place like that? Also, I wonder, what would the Biden administration want from other countries? Australia hasn’t exactly been very well prepared for this Chinese-Solomon agreement either.
Jen Psaki: (45:13)
Yeah. It’s a great group of questions. I have not talked to Kurt Campbell about this since he returned. I’m not sure if the president has. I can see if there’s anything more we can update you on, on our policy.
Thank you [crosstalk 00:45:22].
Thanks, Jen. I wanted to [crosstalk 00:45:25]-
Speaker 23: (45:23)
[crosstalk 00:45:23] the president has issue a statement on malaria. The president just issued a statement on malaria [inaudible 00:45:29]. Since the time you started speaking, almost 100 children have died of malaria. He said, “Two children [inaudible 00:45:37] dies every two minute of malaria.” Is the president prepared to increase funding, maybe fight malaria the same way the US has been fighting COVID?
Jen Psaki: (45:47)
It’s obviously something the president cares deeply about, as we do as an administration. I don’t have anything for you in terms of predictions of additional funding. I can see if there’s anything more from USAID. Go ahead.
Speaker 22: (45:58)
[crosstalk 00:45:58] On the CPS, I know the administration has just granted CPS to come [inaudible 00:46:04] and live in the US. Why not extend it to Ethiopia and Nigeria, other African countries that are also in crisis?
Jen Psaki: (46:11)
Yeah. I know you’ve asked me a similar question before. It’s an effort or a process led by the Department of Homeland Security to make a determination about conditions on the ground and an interagency process. I don’t have anything to predict at this point. Obviously, they’re continuing to assess.
Speaker 23: (46:25)
I wanted to ask about your announcement from last week on refugees from Ukraine. I know you’re supposed to open the portal for applications today [crosstalk 00:46:33].
Jen Psaki: (46:33)
Speaker 23: (46:34)
Can you talk about how you’re preparing the resources to be able to accept what I’m sure is going to be a big influx of applications as soon as that portal opens?
Jen Psaki: (46:43)
The Department of Homeland Security is going to do a briefing this afternoon with more details to provide to you. Obviously, they will oversee the process. You’re right. We certainly anticipate lots of interest on both sides.
Thanks, Jen. [crosstalk 00:46:57]
Speaker 23: (46:57)
Would there be someone in the White House… I know when you were working on Operation Afghans Welcome [crosstalk 00:47:02]…
Jen Psaki: (47:01)
Speaker 23: (47:01)
… someone in charge of it from this end. Is there going to be someone over here that’s working on it?
Jen Psaki: (47:06)
Sure. Obviously, Russia and Ukraine and implementing all of our programs is a top priority for the national security team. I’ll see if there is one individual who’ll be responsible. Thanks so much.
Speaker 24: (47:16)
Will you take questions on the coronavirus, Jen?
Speaker 24: (47:17)
Jen, on the coronavirus, you talked about China and the tariffs potentially coming off. [inaudible 00:47:23]