Apr 16, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript April 16
April 16, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She addressed gun violence following the FedEx mass shooting, Russia, and more. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:01)
Okay, happy Friday. I have a couple of items for you at the top. Like all of you, were horrified by the shooting overnight at a FedEx facility. The president has been briefed by his team this morning and key aides, including the White House chief of staff and homeland security advisor have been in touch with local leaders and law enforcement officials on the ground. There obviously is a press conference that’s ongoing right now. I would expect we’ll put out a statement from the president shortly after that, after it concludes. The president has spent his entire career working to address gun violence, and his determination to act has been redoubled by senseless killings we’ve seen both in mass shootings like this and in the lives lost to the epidemic of gun violence every single day in communities across our country. We can’t afford to wait as innocent lives are taken.
Jen Psaki: (00:49)
That’s why the president laid out a set of initial actions last week that the administration can take now, that we can take now, to address gun violence, stopping the proliferation of ghost guns and better regulating stabilizing braces, making it easier for states to implement red flag laws, increasing investments in proven community violence intervention programs. There’s more we can do and must do. The Senate should take up and pass the three bills strengthening background checks that passed the House with bipartisan majorities and have the overwhelming support of the American people. They should heed the president’s call to pass a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and end immunity for gun manufacturers. Congress should act to pass the priorities laid out in the American Jobs Plan, including providing $5 billion in funding for community violence prevention programs, something that is of great interest to a number of the groups that were part on this issue. They should speedily confirm David Chipman to lead the ATF, where he served honorably for 25 years as a special agent. Again, there’ll be a statement by the president out shortly.
Jen Psaki: (01:51)
Another item just for all of you, yesterday, we released a fact sheet outlining the ways the American Jobs Plan would benefit veterans. The American Jobs Plan will help meet our obligation to better by creating… Wow. There’s a plane right overhead, just for anyone tuning in online. The American Jobs Plan will help meet the obligation by creating millions of good jobs for veterans and their spouses, growing opportunities for small veteran-owned businesses, and helping ensure the delivery of world-class, state-of-the-art healthcare. Here’s what the Jobs Plan means for veterans and their families. $18 billion to modernize VA health facilities, quality job creation for veterans and their spouses. It outlined steps the federal government can take, expanding opportunities for small veteran owned businesses. Veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans.
Jen Psaki: (02:44)
I also wanted to let you know… I’m jamming through this because we have a time frame on the end, or a time limit on the end. I also wanted to let you know that the president was tested for COVID-19 this morning and COVID-19 was not detected. Finally, for the week ahead, on Monday, the president will meet with a bipartisan group of members of Congress to discuss the historic investments in the American Jobs Plan, including in highways, drinking water systems, broadband and the care economy. On Tuesday, he will meet with the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Later in the week, the president will deliver remarks on the COVID-19 response, providing an update on that front and the state of vaccinations. And of course, at the end of the week, the president will participate in the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate.
Jen Psaki: (03:25)
I wanted to just outline a little bit on that, which I know is of great interest to many of you. The president wanted to convene the summit early in his presidency to ensure close coordination with key players in the international community and at the highest levels of government. Obviously, the United States is one of the world’s largest emitters, but so are a number of countries who will be represented by leaders next week. It’s aimed at setting the world up for success on multiple fronts as we work to address the climate crisis, including emissions reductions, finance, innovation and job creation, resilience, and adaptation. The summit will convene the world’s major economies and other key voices, as we’ve noted, 40 leaders have been invited, to galvanize efforts to keep the vital goal of limiting global warming. And we know that objective is within reach.
Jen Psaki: (04:11)
During the summit, leaders will also discuss mobilizing public and private sector financing to drive the net zero transition and to help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts. The economic benefits of climate action with a strong emphasis on job creation and the importance of ensuring all communities and workers benefit from the transition to a new clean energy economy will be central to the discussions, will be part of what the president will be focused on. The full summit will be live streamed for public viewing. More information related to the agenda, speakers and media opportunities will be announced in the days ahead. And as many of you have been asking about, I’m certain we’ll have more news from our end on what we intend to do from the Biden and Harris administration to address climate moving ahead. Go ahead.
Speaker 1: (04:58)
Thank you. In addition to the awful situation in Indianapolis yesterday, in Chicago, there was a video released of really [inaudible 00:05:10] isn’t a proper word, but chilling video of the police shooting death of Adam Toledo. Tensions are running high in Brooklyn Center. The George Floyd trial is still going on. I was wondering, does the president regret, prioritizing infrastructure at this point, when racial equality and the adjacent issue of gun reform sort of fit in those four buckets that you guys talked about right from the beginning? Is there any regrets on the prioritization?
Jen Psaki: (05:50)
Well first, I would say the president believes that we, leaders, can do more than one thing at one time. And yes, we’ve proposed an American Jobs Plan, something that will put millions of people back to work, that will make historic investments in our economy, put us on a path to sustainability and competing with China over the long-term. At the same time, as I just reiterated at the beginning, the president has used the power of his office to put in place executive actions, pull his own levers to ensure that we are doing more to address gun violence. At the same time, he’s also working with Congress to move forward on the George Floyd Act. He also believes that can put in place long overdue reforms that are necessary.
Jen Psaki: (06:34)
But it also will require Congress moving forward. And sometimes that is a process. It can be unsatisfying. It can take longer than we all think it should. But in order to get enough members together to support police reforms, we feel that the George Floyd Act is the right step forward. So I would dispute the notion. I would say that in this building, the legislative team, senior members of the White House staff, we are working on multiple fronts at the same time, even as we have introduced a major piece of legislation.
Speaker 1: (07:03)
Point taken. And on the George Floyd Act, can you offer any details on how exactly… Who’s making the calls? What’s being done, from the White House and from the president and vice president on down, to lobby Congress and make it happen?
Jen Psaki: (07:18)
Well, it’s going to require Congress and leaders in Congress to move that forward. And the president is eager to sign the George Floyd Act into law, eager to sign a police reform bill into law, thinks those reforms are long overdue. There are conversations happening on Capitol Hill that we’ll allow them to brief you on. There are leaders who have been outspoken, whether it’s Senator Cory Booker, Senator Tim Scott, others in the House who are engaged in discussions about what the path could look like moving forward. We certainly understand and know that the initial bill that was passed, there could be changes. That’s democracy in action. That’s how legislating happens. And again, the president’s eager to sign that bill. We will continue to have senior officials engaged with members of Congress on it. Okay. Mike Memoli, I’ve not seen you in the briefing room yet, so welcome to the briefing room in the Biden Harris administration.
Mike Memoli : (08:10)
I am glad I found my way back. To follow up on the issue of guns, by some measures this is at least the third mass shooting of this president’s young administration. He’s described this as an epidemic, gun violence in this country, and we’ve seen in terms of the response to COVID-19 what an all of government response from this administration looks like to a pandemic. Why not the same level of response to this ongoing issue of gun violence, the appointing of a senior czar, for instance, beyond just the efforts that are being made on legislation?
Jen Psaki: (08:46)
Well, first let me say, or reiterate, as you said and the president has said, he believes gun violence is an epidemic. It’s a public health crisis. It’s destroying communities across the country. He’s also been working on this issue for decades. And if he were standing here, and I know there’s a press conference later today, and you all may ask him about this, he would tell you that we can’t give up just because it’s hard, just because the politics are perplexing, which they are, given more than 80% of the public supports universal background checks, and yet the Senate has not moved forward, and because bills aren’t sailing forward. And we need to keep at it.
Jen Psaki: (09:21)
And so I would say the way he approaches this is one where he has used the levers of his presidency, already announced last week executive action steps that the Department of Justice is going to take. We will continue to review additional options. Those are steps he can take. In order to put permanent changes in place, in order to put permanent gun safety measures in place, that is going to require Congress acting. States can also take action. We’ve seen red flag laws put in place in 19 states across the country. More states than that have universal background checks. He also believes that working with advocates, many of whom he invited here last week to have those discussions, encourage them, lift up their efforts as part of how we can move-
Jen Psaki: (10:03)
… Encourage them, lift up their efforts is part of how we can move things forward. I will tell you that this is a priority to him. It’s a priority to the Vice President. It’s a priority to Susan Rice, who’s leading the Domestic Policy Council, to Bruce Reed, who is a Deputy Chief of Staff, to Ron Klain, who’s the Chief of Staff and is from Indianapolis. This is a constant discussion and issue around this White House. It’s not going to require a czar. It is ultimately a priority to the president of the United States, which is the most important factor.
Mike Memoli : (10:28)
On legislation, just a few weeks ago, I asked the President if he was going to be making phone calls to Republicans in particular in the Senate to try to advance the background check legislation there. He said he would be willing to, I know the jobs bill has been the priority. Is there more you can say about the kind of outreach he’s been doing on background checks specifically?
Jen Psaki: (10:46)
Well, I don’t have any calls to read out specifically, but I can tell you that in his conversations, and he has been talking with Republicans about a range of issues, but there are a lot of topics that certainly come up and he believes that, you mentioned the third mass shooting, it’s actually the third mass shooting in Indianapolis this year, just to give you all a sense. Today’s also the 14th anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting when 33 people lost their lives. In the President’s view, this is an issue that is not partisan. It should not be political, despite the efforts of the NRA over time. This is an issue that Democrats, Republicans, Independents across the country believe universal background checks should happen, and that certainly is the message that he will continue to send publicly and privately in conversations.
Mike Memoli : (11:32)
On Russia, I wanted to follow up on the announcement yesterday of at least the intention to hold a summit with President Putin. The President himself yesterday afternoon said that he expected or hoped that that meeting would happen. I wonder though, why would you announce a summit intention without a commitment? We still haven’t heard one from Moscow, as you know, a high-level meeting of this sort is often a point of leverage with a world leader to try to bring back, change behavior as it were, why are there conditions on this meeting if there has been one [inaudible 00:12:04]?
Jen Psaki: (12:04)
Well, it was raised in the call, and so it was in the readout of the call that the President had made this offer to have a discussion in a meeting with President Putin. That call also included a discussion and the President being clear that there would be consequences for the actions, whether it was the hacking, solar winds or other problematic behavior by Russian leadership. The President offered that to send the message that we will have disagreement. We’re not going to hold back on that, but our objective is to have a predictable and stable relationship. We can disagree in areas where we will continue to, we’re not naive about that, but we also believe that there’s an opportunity to work together in some areas. We are certainly hopeful that we will be able to put together the details on that meeting, but it wasn’t pre-cooked or preset before the President’s discussion with President Putin, and it was just providing transparent information to all of you about his offer to President Putin.
Mike Memoli : (13:03)
What if he says no though? Wouldn’t that indicates some weakness on the part of the American administration here?
Jen Psaki: (13:07)
Well, I think the President’s view is that Russia is on the outside of the global community in many respects at this point in time. It’s the G7, not the G8. They have … Obviously, we’ve put sanctions in place in order to send a clear message that there should be consequences for the actions. The Europeans have also done that. What the President is offering is a bridge back, and so certainly he believes it’s in their interest to take him up on that offer. Go ahead.
Thank you, Jen. Earlier this week, you said that the US had secured commitments with the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to bolster security forces at their border, but yesterday the Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle testified on Capitol Hill that there were no agreements. Can you explain the discrepancy?
Jen Psaki: (13:56)
I’d have to look back at his testimony, Kristen.
I have it right here. He said he was asked by Congressman Castro. He said, Congressman Castro asked him, “I just want to confirm, were there any agreements reached in relation to increasing border security in these countries?” The Special Envoy said, “No, there were no agreements concluded with governments regarding border security.”
Jen Psaki: (14:16)
Well, whether or not it was a formal agreement, which it was not, and I never conveyed that it was, these were steps that these countries indicated they plan to take, to increase personnel and security to reduce the number of migrants coming across the border. Those are steps they’ve taken on the ground.
Just to be clear, are these new commitments that the Biden Administration has secured or were, were they already in existence?
Jen Psaki: (14:38)
We never described it as a formal declaration or a formal agreement, but additional steps that they were taking to increase personnel at the border. Those are steps that you can confirm with those countries that they have taken. Go ahead.
Okay, one more question.
Jen Psaki: (14:52)
I just have to get around to everyone, I’ll come back to you. I promise. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (14:56)
If I can go back to gun safety legislation on the Hill, what we’re hearing you talk over and over again about the President’s support of the House bills, but right now it just doesn’t seem like they’re … You guys have those votes in the Senate, but we’ve heard from some Republican senators, a willingness to work on a more limited package around background checks. Why not pitch something a little bit more limited? Try to get something across the finish line. Is the President willing to engage on a more targeted background check bill?
Jen Psaki: (15:22)
I would say that we should … I would punt that question back to the Republicans who are not supportive of universal background checks or an extension of that, which 80% of the public support. Our question to them would be why don’t you support what the vast majority of your own constituents support? This is an expansion of background checks, which prevents guns getting into the hands of people who should not have them, so that’s where I would punt you.
Speaker 2: (15:46)
You’re saying that that the executive action that the President took on gun safety were initial steps. You said you used that phrase over and over. What’s next? Give us some preview of what other executive actions you guys are considering because otherwise, it’s just passing the buck to Capitol Hill.
Jen Psaki: (16:01)
I think it’s hardly that. Again, I would say the President has been working on these issues throughout his career for decades. He helped get the assault weapons ban passed. He helped get background checks passed as a part of the Brady Bill. He helped lead the effort to get two dozen executive actions in place when he was Vice President and just took actions on his own. There is a responsibility and a role for the Senate to play. There’s a separation of powers here, and also he’s looking forward to signing that legislation. I would say that advocates should pressure Republicans in the Senate, that all of you should pressure Republicans in the Senate and ask them why they are opposing universal background checks when the vast majority of the American public supports it. Go ahead, Jennifer.
Oh, thanks. On the cyber attacks and the sanctions on Russia yesterday, a spokesman for the Kremlin says that the US has been informed about what their response is. Can you share what Russia’s response is, please?
Jen Psaki: (16:58)
I will let them share what their response is on their own. I am blissfully not a spokesperson for the Kremlin, but they have indicated they were going to have a response. I don’t have more. I can react to it once we know what the details are.
[crosstalk 00:17:11] White House been informed about what their response was going to be?
Jen Psaki: (17:14)
Not as of earlier this morning, but I can check with our National Security team if there are more details.
Okay. On infrastructure, is there anything that you can update us on about the negotiations, any serious negotiations happening with the GOP on pay-fors, anything you can share on infrastructure?
Jen Psaki: (17:28)
Well, I would say that what we’re waiting for is a counterproposal from Republicans in Congress, and they’ve indicated that they’re working through that. We look forward to seriously considering any proposal, that any good faith engagement, I should say, that comes our way, but we’re waiting. We’re on the receiving end for that, so we’re looking forward to it. On pay-fors, I would say, there are basically two options to pay for this job-creating plan. The President believes that should be done by having corporations pay their fair share. That’s what he’s proposed, an increase in the corporate tax rate, global minimum tax. Some in Congress think that it should be paid for by putting the burden on the backs of Americans. We’re happy to have that debate, but that’s the fundamental disagreement. Those are the two major options.
One last thing on the American Families Act, on American families. Can you give any guidance for us on when we’ll see that? What might be in it, any update on that?
Jen Psaki: (18:23)
Not quite yet, but again, we remain on track to having more to share with you in the coming weeks. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (18:30)
Thank you very much. About summits, Ukraine’s President just this morning called for a summit with France, Germany and the US. Is the President going to sign up to that?
Jen Psaki: (18:42)
I had not heard that from our National Security Team. I’ll see if there’s … If we have any plans or have made any decisions about participating.
Speaker 3: (18:49)
It’s very new. On Japan, with just less than 100 days to go to the Olympics, even the torch relay seems to be in all sorts of trouble. What is the President’s feeling now about the advisability, safety, et cetera of the US team going there? Will he be going there if the US goes ahead?
Jen Psaki: (19:10)
I don’t have any plans to announce as it relates to travel or any international travel today. I can say that we understand the careful considerations that the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee are weighing as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics this summer. The government of Japan has stressed that public health remains the central priority as they plan to host the games. Tokyo has assured us, they will keep in close contact with Washington as their plans develop, but I don’t have any more beyond that. I’m sure it will be discussed today, and you all may ask them during the press conference later this afternoon.
Speaker 3: (19:43)
Okay. There’s just one more Japan question [inaudible 00:19:45] Japan.
Jen Psaki: (19:45)
Speaker 3: (19:47)
The President obviously has the environment high on his list of priorities. Will he be talking to the Prime Minister about the plan to discharge, I think it’s like a million tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant, which a lot of countries in the region, and I think …
Speaker 4: (20:03)
-Which a lot of countries in the region, and I think the UN as well, have said it’s not a great idea. What’s his position?
Jen Psaki: (20:08)
I expect that will be discussed. I will also convey that the prime minister has announced that he will join the United States in announcing a new 2030 target by the April 22nd Leader Summit on Climate. And Japan is committed to this target and being a part of the effort to reach net zero targets by 2050. But, I expect there’ll be more of a readout following the meeting today.
Jen Psaki: (20:33)
Speaker 5: (20:35)
Thanks, Jen. I was wondering if the President had actually watched the Adam Toledo video, and then also what his reaction was to it.
Jen Psaki: (20:42)
I have not spoken with him this morning. I expect I’ll see him later this morning. I will say for those of us who did watch that video, it is certainly chilling and a reminder that across the country, there are far too many communities where there is violence that is impacting, that too often in this country, law enforcement uses unnecessary force too often resulting in the death of Black and Brown Americans. The President again has repeatedly said that he believes we need police reform. That’s what he says he’s calling for Congress to send to his desk. There’s an independent investigation as you well know, and certainly, we’ll see that play itself through.
Speaker 5: (21:23)
And then also have the Bidens been in touch with Prince Harry or any members of the royal family ahead of Saturday’s funeral. And do they plan to send flowers or a wreath or any gestures of goodwill?
Jen Psaki: (21:32)
I’m not aware of any points of contact. I’m happy to check with our team and see if there’s anything that will be sent ahead of time. Trevor, I’m sorry. I missed you. Go ahead.
There’s a historic moment that’s playing out in Cuba in terms of Castro stepping down from the Communist Party and a changing of the guard in terms of the Castro family moving on and new leadership. Do you have any reaction to that? And why haven’t we seen anything from the President as far as sanctions are concerned?
Jen Psaki: (22:05)
Well, broadly speaking, our policy as it relates to Cuba is going to be governed by two principles: support for democracy and human rights will be at the core of our efforts through empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future, and second, our belief that Americans, especially Cuban Americans, are the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity. Cuba policy shifts or additional steps is currently not among the President’s top foreign policy priorities, but it is an issue, of course, we will remain engaged in and focused on. And I can see if there’s more of a reaction to that change in leadership. Absolutely.
And then just on the Japan visit today, any update on any assistance that can be given to Japan. They’re very early in terms of their vaccination effort. Is that something that’s going to be discussed? Do you have anything to offer them on that? And then, is there an update on North Korea as well? There is indication that they have additional reprocessing capabilities that will allow them to produce more fissile material for nuclear weapons?
Jen Psaki: (23:11)
Sure. Well, first, we do expect that President Biden and the prime minister will discuss COVID and efforts to address and get the pandemic under control. They’ve also discussed as a part of the quad, of course, there’s been a discussion about increasing cooperation and support through COVAX, but we expect they will discuss that, and that will be a part of the readout following the meeting. As it relates to North Korea, as you know, there has been an ongoing review, which we’re nearing the end of that review. Japan has been consulted all along, but the two leaders meeting in person is, obviously, an opportunity to discuss that in person, which will certainly be a part of the discussion. We understand, I would underscore, Japan’s interest in this issue, not only the nuclear program but obviously stability in the region. They will discuss that. And I expect it will be part of the readout as well.
Jen Psaki: (24:08)
Go ahead in the back.
Speaker 6: (24:09)
Thanks, Jen. Today’s meeting with the Japanese prime minister is, of course, the President’s first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader. Given that we are still in the middle of a pandemic, can you talk about why you decided that it’s now safe to hold these kinds of meetings and what kind of safety protocols will be in place?
Jen Psaki: (24:26)
Well, I can assure you that we make these decisions very carefully and thoughtfully, and that we ensure that there is adequate testing, social distancing, processes that are put in place to ensure that all participants are kept safe and that we’re taking into account the pandemic. There won’t be a meal, as an example, which would be standard and traditional for a visit like this. And, of course, they will be spread out at the press conference and also even in their meetings and expanded bilateral meeting. And also it, of course, impacts the limited number of reporters that we will have there for the press conference. There are a number of steps we take. It doesn’t look exactly like the bilateral in-person meetings that many of you have attended in the past. And we look forward to returning to normal on many fronts, but certainly, this one as well.
Speaker 6: (25:18)
And one more thing: I know that you said President Moon of South Korea will be coming to Washington in, I think you said, late May.
Jen Psaki: (25:25)
Speaker 6: (25:27)
What other visits can we expect by foreign leaders? And I know you’ve been asked this before, but, again, when can we expect the President to start traveling abroad?
Jen Psaki: (25:35)
I’m ready, too. I would say that it should send a strong message about the first two visits that the President will have in-person. The leaders of Japan and South Korea send a message about how vital and important the relationships in that region, the stability in the region, security in the region, economic partnerships in the region are to this White House. I don’t have additional foreign leader visits to predict quite yet. Of course, there will certainly be more. And in terms of the President’s foreign travel, I just don’t have anything yet. Hopefully, we’ll have something more soon. Understand the interest.
Jen Psaki: (26:12)
Speaker 7: (26:13)
Iran, today, announced that they had had enriched uranium at a 60% level. Does the White House view this as a worrisome development? And also, how does it affect the President’s plan to revive the Iran Nuclear Deal?
Jen Psaki: (26:27)
I believe they made the announcement earlier this week, but, regardless, as we stated earlier this week, we take seriously Iran’s provocative announcement of its intentions to begin enriching uranium to 60%, which the P5+1 should be unified in rejecting. This step both calls into question Iran’s seriousness with regard to the nuclear talks and underscores the imperative of returning to mutual compliance. Now, there are indirect talks that are happening right now that started last week that were ongoing through today. And, well, we expected these talks to be difficult, to be long, we still feel that they are a step forward in moving towards leading with diplomacy to find a path forward.
Speaker 7: (27:09)
One more on Russia. The President, yesterday, did not mention Alexei Navalny in his remarks at all. Obviously, the US had taken earlier action. The President had spoken earlier. Was there a reason why there was the omission of Navalny yesterday?
Jen Psaki: (27:23)
He was announcing steps in reaction to the other parts of the review. We had already announced sanctions as it related to Alexei Navalny. And we had previously announced those, which I know a lot’s happening, so.
Speaker 7: (27:37)
Jen Psaki: (27:37)
Yeah. Let me just get around to [inaudible 00:27:37]. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (27:39)
Yesterday you said that President Biden remains committed to raising the refugee cap to the higher levels he had previewed, but advocates have been questioning whether the delay to that move is based on the situation in the border. Is it true that President Biden doesn’t want to raise the refugees cap while the situation at the border is like it is right now?
Jen Psaki: (28:01)
Well, I actually expect we’ll have some more news on this today, so stay tuned. But, I would say that it is a factor. ORR, which is a part of HHS, does do management and has personnel working on both issues. And so we have to ensure that there is capacity and ability to manage both. Now, I will say that the other piece that has been a factor is that it took us some time to see and evaluate how ineffective or how trashed, in some ways, the refugee processing system had become. And so we had to rebuild some of those muscles and put it back in place. But, I expect again, we’ll have more news on this today, and we’ll share that with all of you. Go in the back.
Speaker 9: (28:50)
Thank you, Jen. Another question about there’s a meeting with [inaudible 00:28:54] [Suga 00:28:54]. Yesterday, [inaudible 00:28:56] Taiwan would be on the joint state event. Can you talk more about Taiwan. Why you want to say be patient, stay tuned, wait until the joint state event, or?
Jen Psaki: (29:08)
Well, we’ve been clear publicly and privately about our growing concerns about China’s aggression towards Taiwan. China has taken increasingly coercive action to undercut democracy in Taiwan. And we’ve seen a concerning increase in PRC military activity in the Taiwan Strait, which we believe is potentially destabilizing. Our common position on Taiwan with the Japanese Alliance and our secretary of defense and secretary of state have made statements to that, that are consistent with that over the past weeks as well to elevate that. But, of course, we’ll have, again, a press conference. We’ll have a joint statement, and I’m sure they will address that following the meetings.
Jen Psaki: (29:55)
Go ahead in the back.
Speaker 10: (29:56)
Thanks, Jen. The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, talking to her group on Wednesday-
Speaker 11: (30:02)
Linda Thomas-Greenfield talking to her group on Wednesday essentially said that White supremacy is woven into our founding documents and principles. Now, this statement is getting widely criticized as essentially parroting Chinese Communist Party talking points. So is the President going to remove her from her position as the representative before that body to promote United States values?
Jen Psaki: (30:29)
Is the President going to remove an African-American woman with decades of experience in the foreign service who’s widely respected around the world from her position as ambassador to the UN? He is not, he is proud to have her in that position. She is not only qualified, he believes she is exactly the right person in that role at this moment in time. I have not seen her comments. I will say that there’s no question that there has been a history of institutional racism in this country, and that doesn’t require the UN Ambassador to confirm that.
Speaker 11: (30:59)
[inaudible 00:30:59] essentially the same lecture though, that the Chinese delegation gave Secretary Blinken in Alaska last month. So does the President think our founding documents are racist?
Jen Psaki: (31:10)
I would say that I will leave my comments to speak for themselves. And certainly I think most people recognize the history of systemic racism in our country. And she was speaking to that. Go ahead. And I promise Kristen, I’d get back to her to. Go ahead.
Mike Memoli : (31:26)
Quick question and then a longer one. In terms of, you said the President had been tested for COVID- 19-
Jen Psaki: (31:30)
Mike Memoli : (31:31)
Jen Psaki: (31:32)
Mike Memoli : (31:32)
Has that been regular or is that specifically part of the protocols for today’s foreign leaders visit?
Jen Psaki: (31:35)
He’s tested every couple of weeks and we try to provide those on a timely manner, the updates. Today was the most timely, so we will continue to try to do that moving forward.
Mike Memoli : (31:44)
And then I wanted to ask you about some new reporting from one of my colleagues Ali. She has a new piece about secret Facebook groups that are primarily composed of Special Forces, which includes in the postings of very racist language, a criticism of the government, even some QAnon type conspiracy theories. I wonder if you have a reaction to the report? And also if you could give an update on the tasking that the President had issued for us and the intelligence community, as well as DHS on domestic extremism.
Jen Psaki: (32:12)
Yeah, it is a 100 day review which we are getting close to the conclusion of and a lot of the review has been done and now we’re working on the policy phase of that. And I expect we’ll have more to say after that a hundred day review concludes. And certainly that review is looking at areas where we see the rise of domestic violent extremism not through a political prism, but places where we’ve seen it in the country, places where we’ve seen it online. And they’re looking at all of those forums. And hopefully we’ll have more to say on that. We will have more to say on that I should say when that review concludes.
Mike Memoli : (32:44)
And then just specifically about the reporting from my colleague have you-
Jen Psaki: (32:48)
Oh, yeah. Sorry, we have another friend today. But yes.
Mike Memoli : (32:51)
What does it say [inaudible 00:32:54] the President have a reaction to this kind of language among some of our most highly trained Special Forces in the U.S. armed services?
Jen Psaki: (33:02)
I would certainly point you to the Department of Defense, but I would say that there’s no place for racism, for the projection of that in government or out of government on forums or publicly speaking. And certainly that is of concern, seeing that to all of us and to the President. Kristen, did you have another question before we go back? Oh, I’m sorry. And we didn’t get to you and I didn’t mean to, but we can quickly go and then we’ll go to Aliyah.
Okay. Just really quick.
Jen Psaki: (33:27)
I know we’ve talked about perhaps the possibility of splitting up the infrastructure bill just yesterday and one of the President’s allies on Capitol Hill Senator Chris Coons really floated the idea of splitting it between just a traditional roads and bridges infrastructure package, and then another one with everything else in the American jobs plan. Is that something that the White House is seriously considering?
Jen Psaki: (33:44)
I would say that the President’s going to have a bipartisan meeting next week and a number of meetings next week, where the jobs plan is going to be central to that. There are a lot of proposals floating around there. One of them is from Senator Coons who of course is a close ally of the President, but there are a lot of different proposals out there. So he is very open to hearing different ideas, hearing different ways to get these big ideas he’s put forward, this historic investment to modernize our infrastructure, create millions of jobs for the mechanisms for that, the construction of it, the pieces that it could flow through. He’s very open to what that looks like. Go ahead and then we’ll go to our friend. Go ahead.
Speaker 12: (34:22)
Yeah, thanks [inaudible 00:34:23]. I just have a quick question for [inaudible 00:34:25] did the assessment of the Russian bounties include whether or not President Trump and his senior advisors have been briefed on those?
Jen Psaki: (34:31)
I’m sorry. Sometimes it’s hard to hear with the masks.
Speaker 12: (34:36)
Did the assessment of the Russian bounties include, whether President Trump and his senior administration officials had been briefed on the threat?
Jen Psaki: (34:44)
The assessment was done by the intelligence community to look at available intelligence. So it wasn’t looked at briefings or who has been briefed it was looked at available intelligence. A lot of that came from detainees and hence we announced it was low to moderate confidence, but it’s really not done through the prism of politics or the prism of current and past political appointees, but done through the intelligence available and what can be assessed on that basis. Okay. Hello. So as we have announced last Friday, we’re going to try to bring more people into the briefing room to ask questions and bring the White House perspective out to more parts of the country. So Aliyah’s from Indian country today. Aliyah Chavez, thanks for joining us. And what can I help you with?
Aliyah Chavez: (35:41)
Thanks for having me. I’d like to follow up on the fact sheet that was released this morning from the White House regarding its investments in combating COVID-19 in Indian country. The plan for 2 billion followers for third party billing in Indian health system shows the significance of Medicaid and other insurance programs. We know that some states are stingy with Medicaid regulations. Does this plan demonstrate the need for tribes to be treated like states so that they can develop their own eligibility rules and priorities?
Jen Psaki: (36:17)
Well let me just give you all sense because everybody may not be aware of the announcement that we made this morning. Let’s see here. The recently passed legislation from Congress we announced additional funding, additional resources that will be made available. And so today we announced $4 billion from the American Rescue Plan to support COVID-19 response and healthcare in Indian country. And we will continue to partner and we will work directly with tribal nations in distributing critical resources and ensuring that funds meet the needs of Indian country. So I would say that just as we are working with states directly, we are working with local communities, we have our own federal programs, pharmacy programs, and other programs, we will work directly with Indian country to ensure that they have the resources, the funding, the vaccine supply needed in order to get the pandemic under control. Thank you so much.
Aliyah Chavez: (37:16)
Another [inaudible 00:37:17].
Jen Psaki: (37:17)
Go ahead. Yes. Go ahead.
Aliyah Chavez: (37:18)
I have just another question about a key campaign promise of President Biden to tribal leaders, which was to immediately reinstate the White House Tribal Nations Conference. When can we expect to learn more about when that conference will happen, whether it would be virtually or in person, and how much of a priority is it to President Biden to make this happen in his first year in office?
Jen Psaki: (37:41)
It is certainly a big priority. And obviously we’ve been impacted of course, by COVID and the pandemic, because to have a conference like that we’d love to do that in person and have people meet in person to make it that much more constructive and productive. So we hope to aim for late 2021, and we will keep working toward that. I will say that as you know, Secretary Holland traveled last week to Utah and our second gentleman has also traveled twice to Indian country. And we just announced that Secretary Holland and Domestic Policy Advisor, Susan Rice will convene the first White House Council on Native American affairs meeting at the White House as well. And this is an inter-agency principles level committee, so that shows you how important this issue is. But we look forward to having that conference, that meeting hopefully soon. Thank you again. It was lovely to meet you. Thanks for joining us. Okay. I’m sorry I have to wrap up because I have a [inaudible 00:38:44], but we have a press conference today so you can hear from the President. Thank you everyone so much. Have a wonderful Friday and weekend.