Apr 19, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript April 19
April 19, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She addressed the American Jobs Plan and the trial of Derek Chauvin. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:04)
Okay. A couple of items for you all at the top. Today is an exciting day. We enter a new phase of our vaccination program and our effort to put the pandemic behind us. Starting today, everyone 16 years and older in every state is eligible for the vaccine. Thanks to the aggressive action we have taken through our wartime whole of government response, we have enough vaccine supply for all adults to get vaccinated. We will have, I should say, thousands of vaccinators ready to get people vaccinated, and more than 60,000 convenient places for people to get their shot.
Jen Psaki: (00:43)
So we put up a couple of highlights here. More than half of all adults in America have now received at least one shot. More than 32% of adults are fully vaccinated. 81% of seniors have at least one. And just about two thirds are fully vaccinated. At least 90% of Americans now have a vaccine site within five miles of where they live. And in order to make sure people know that they’re eligible, we’re blitzing the airwaves, including local media, constituency radio and television, and also have a range of officials doing national interviews, especially health and medical experts. Google is providing information on its homepage to help people find a location near them. And there are notifications from Facebook and Twitter, as well as even a Snapchat message from Doctor Fauci. Never to never too young to Snapchat. Too old, too young, either way.
Jen Psaki: (01:35)
There’s also a bipartisan AJP meeting happening today. American Jobs Plan happening today. This afternoon, the President … Shortly after the briefing, I should say, and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg will host a meeting in the Oval Office with a bipartisan group of representatives and senators who are former mayors and governors. They are of course, more former mayors and governors than just this group. We will likely welcome them in the future as well, but the President’s looking forward to tapping into their experience and expertise overseeing local communities and states. Hence, this is the group he’ll be meeting with today. They’ll discuss the American Jobs Plan, the critical need for investment in our nation’s infrastructure, and their state and local executive experience combined with their legislative experience provides, in the President’s view, important perspective on how to invest in our roads, bridges, railways, and infrastructure across the country. Two more quick items for you. Today, we congratulate the men and women of NASA in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for yet again making history in outer space. The space agency’s aptly named Ingenuity helicopter lifted off of Mars early this morning, performed the first ever powered flight on a world beyond earth. And this [inaudible 00:02:49] flight now paves the way for more extensive exploration down the road. Future red planet missions could include choppers as scouts or data collectors. Very exciting.
Jen Psaki: (02:59)
Finally, today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is announcing the obligation of $8.2 billion in community development block grant mitigation funds for Puerto Rico, along with the removal of onerous restrictions unique to Puerto Rico that limit the island’s access to these funds that were allocated following Hurricane Maria in September. And these actions are the latest in an ongoing whole of government effort to support the island’s recovery and renewal. Jonathan, would you kick us off?
Thank you, Jen and happy Patriot’s Day. I know you’re a New Englander.
Jen Psaki: (03:32)
Two matters for you. Demand one, domestic one four and starting here at home. The nation is obviously watching right now the closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota. And I was hoping you could please walk us through what the federal level of preparedness is right now for a verdict that could be coming in a matter of days. What sort of coordination is there with the states, not just in Minnesota, but elsewhere, if there indeed will be perhaps unrest one way or the other after the riot? Could you walk me through conversations being had with local officials, mayors, governors, and so on?
Jen Psaki: (04:06)
First, let me say, as you all know, the jury is deliberating. They will be deliberating, I should say, after the closing arguments today. They’ll come back with a verdict and we’re not going to get ahead of those deliberations. I’m not suggesting you were asking that, but I just wanted to restate that. What I can say is, broadly speaking, we are in touch with mayors, governors, local authorities. Of course, our objective is to ensure there is a space for peaceful protest. That we continue to convey that while this country has gone through an extensive period, especially the Black community, of pain, trauma, and exhaustion, as we’ve watched not just the trial, but of course, additional violence against their community over the past several weeks. It’s important to acknowledge that and elevate that at every opportunity we have. But in terms of your question, Jonathan, we’re in touch with local authorities, we’re in touch with states, with governors, with mayors, and certainly, we will continue to encourage peaceful protests, but we’re not going to get ahead of the verdict in the trial.
I understand. Is there recommendations in terms of the National Guard and deployments? Have there been conversations about that?
Jen Psaki: (05:25)
There’s a range of conversations about how to ensure that no matter what the outcome, there is a space for peaceful protest, but of course, we’ll let the jury deliberate and we’ll wait for the verdict to come out before we say more about our engagements.
Okay. And the other matter, Alexei Navalny, obviously in a Russian prison. There were reports today that he has been removed to a hospital for medical treatment after the hunger strike he has been on. Can you provide the latest in terms of what the White House has heard about how he is doing? And if you believe this is an this is enough care for him? And what sort of conversations are being had right now with the Russian authorities as to that situation?
Jen Psaki: (06:08)
Well, first I expect today, if not now, our National Security Advisor is going to have a conversation with his counterpart and we’ll have a readout of that once that’s concluded. That, of course, will cover a range of topics, but certainly the detention and treatment of Navalny will be a part of that. Let me say that as a reminder, in the President’s first conversation with President Putin, he raised a range of concerns, including the treatment of Navalny. On March 2nd, we announced, in coordination with several key allies and partners, our response to Russia’s use of a chemical weapon to poison Alexei Navalny.
Jen Psaki: (06:46)
So we continue to reiterate our view that what happens to Mr. Navalny in the custody of the Russian government is the responsibility of Russian government, and that they will be held accountable by the international community. As the National Security Advisor Sullivan has said, he said just yesterday, we’re not going to telegraph our punches. If Mr Navalny dies, there will be consequences to the Russian government and we reserve those options. But in the interim, our objective is, of course, continuing to call for, push for his release and reiterate our view that he must be treated humanely.
Jen Psaki: (07:27)
Speaker 1: (07:27)
Thanks, Jen. Can you explain where things stand right now when it comes to the Refugee Ban? First off, the White House said on Friday that actually the 15,000 cap that was set by the Trump administration remained justified. But then later you said, “Actually, no. The number is going to go up by May 15th.”
Jen Psaki: (07:49)
I would dispute that being our characterization on Friday, but let me walk you through what we did announce. Friday’s announcement, I should say, was an effort and [inaudible 00:08:01] step forward in our view to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions of the world. So there were many parts of the Middle East, parts of Africa where refugees could not apply and could not come into the United States. And part, as a result of that, there were very limited number of refugees, in the low thousands, that had come over in an extensive period of time during the Trump administration. That was an important step in our view.
Jen Psaki: (08:26)
In addition, there had been refugee flights that had not traveled and had not been taking off to come to the United States. And we resumed those flights. This was always meant to be just the beginning. In the announcement we made on Friday, we were clear in the emergency presidential determination that if 15,000 is reached, a subsequent presidential determination would be issued to increase admissions, as appropriate. And that is certainly our expectation.
Jen Psaki: (08:54)
In addition, we also announced on Friday that the President, while we are assessing right now what is possible given the fact that the asylum processing has been hollowed out from the State Department and also the ORR, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has also been hollowed out in terms of personnel, staffing and financial and funding needs. We have every intention to increase the cap and to make an announcement of that by May 15th at the latest. And I expect it will be sooner than that. The President also remains committed to pursuing the aspirational goal of reaching 125,000 refugees by the end of the next fiscal year.
Speaker 1: (09:36)
And what role has the situation at the border, which the President called a crisis this weekend, what role has that played in decision-making around the refugee camp?
Jen Psaki: (09:46)
Sure. Well, if I walk you back just a little bit, and hopefully this will be helpful to you, during the transition, our team made an assessment of what our refugee cap should look like. And we looked back at the last few years and assessed that because of the very low numbers, the restrictions I just mentioned that were in place restricting refugees from coming from most of the Middle East, I should say, and Africa, we needed to go big and have a bold goal. And so that’s why we set the 125,000 cap objective by the end of fiscal year ’22. 62,500 was meant to be a down payment in this year. That was why we set that goal. Now, that was an aspirational increase of 10 times what was being led in by the Trump administration. In that period of time, we came into office, the President made that announcement, put those aspirational goals out there, there were a couple of things that happened. One, as you alluded to, there was an increase of unaccompanied children at the border. Our policy was always going to be to welcome those children in, find a place where they could be sheltered and treated humanely and safely. That increase and that influx, as you all know, was higher than most people, including us, anticipated. The second-
Jen Psaki: (11:03)
… higher than most people, including us anticipated. The second factor was that we did not… It took us some time to recognize how hollowed out the systems were. The Office of Refugee Resettlement which oversees, while there have been different pots of money in different personnel, has both the resettling of refugees as well as unaccompanied children. And there are questions and have been assessments about reprogramming of funds and how we can address both at the same time. And certainly that ability and ensuring we can do that effectively has been on the President’s mind.
Speaker 1: (11:35)
Finally, on a somewhat related matter, the President has said that climate change is one of the factors that has created this surge at the border. But there are no Central American countries that have been invited to the Climate Summit that the White House is putting on. How did you decide which countries to invite and has it been considered whether or not to invite some Central American countries?
Jen Psaki: (12:01)
Well, I’ll say that engaging Central American countries, countries in South America, many other countries around the world in the climate crisis is certainly our objective and our plan. And you will see that play out through diplomatic channels, whether it’s through Former Secretary Kerry, who’s now our Envoy, or Secretary of State Blinken or the President himself. There were 40 global leaders invited. This is our first summit of this kind and obviously a number of them will be speaking. So I think the decision was made about how to impact and invite some of the largest economies in the world. That was the objective, but engagement with these countries, having a conversation about the role many of them play in addressing the climate crisis is absolutely on our diplomatic agenda beyond this summit this week. Thanks. Go ahead. [inaudible 00:12:50]
Kaitlin Collins: (12:50)
If it is a Not Guilty verdict, will the President be disappointed?
Jen Psaki: (12:56)
I think we’re not going to get ahead of the jury, the legal process and the jury making their deliberations, Kaitlin. And when the jury makes their deliberations and concludes and a verdict is found, I’m certain, the President will speak to that.
Kaitlin Collins: (13:10)
And you talked about how the White House is preparing for whatever that verdict is. Congresswoman Maxine Waters said over the weekend that, “We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.” Does the President agree with what she said about getting more confrontational?
Jen Psaki: (13:30)
Well, I can speak to the President’s view. He has been very clear that he recognizes the issue of police violence against people of color, communities of color, is one of great anguish and it’s exhausting and quite emotional at times. As you know, he met with the Floyd family last year and has been closely following the trial, as we’ve been talking about, and is committed to undoing this long standing systemic problem. His view is also that exercising First Amendment rights and protesting injustice is the most American thing that anyone can do. But as he also always says, protests must be peaceful. That’s what he continues to call for and what he continues to believe is the right way to approach responding.
Kaitlin Collins: (14:12)
Okay, thank you. And on the refugee cap, you were saying that there have been other factors that have affected what that goal is now going to be with the limit that’s happened since he first announced he wanted it to be 62,500. But can you explain why two weeks ago when I asked if he was committed to raising it to that number by the end of this fiscal year you said, without hesitation, “Yes.” So I don’t understand what has changed in the last two weeks to change those numbers given two weeks ago, there were the surging numbers at the border already happening?
Jen Psaki: (14:43)
Well, first, he remains… The goal he set was 125,000 by the end of the next fiscal year. And 63,500… Sorry, that was a tongue twister… is meant to be a down payment on that. And he will absolutely be putting out a cap, an increased cap, over the course in advance of May 15th. So he would absolutely like to get to that goal and reached that objective. But we also want to assess, and that’s what we’re doing now, what is possible given the fact that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has been hollowed out and given the fact that the system has been in worse shape and we’re just taking the time to do that. That goal was always aspirational, it was always a huge goal, ten times what the Trump administration had welcomed in terms of refugees. And so we’re going to put out a number, he will put out a number in advance of May 15th.
Kaitlin Collins: (15:40)
But you say it’s aspirational, but clearly you thought it was possible given the Secretary of State told Congress about it, the President committed to it. So why put a number out there if you can’t meet it? Because it does give people false hope that you’re going to let it and 62,500 refugees by the end of September.
Jen Psaki: (15:57)
Well, I think it’s also important for people to understand that the challenge is not the cap. The challenge is the ability to process, the funding, the staffing, and welcome refugees in. The cap is a number that anyone can set. The biggest battle to getting more refugees in during the Trump administration was the fact that there were regional limitations put in on refugees coming in from the Middle East and Africa. We’ve changed that cap, we’ve changed that that policy, I should say.
Jen Psaki: (16:25)
So the cap, the number, was always going to be… We made, as I said in response to Nancy’s question, we knew it was an aspirational, big goal when we set it. It was going to be ten times what the Trump administration had set as their goal. And we remain, we are looking ahead to, and we hope we are hopeful about reaching that 125,000 number as we look to the next fiscal year. But as we came in and assessed and have had time to assess and have the teams that have had time to assess where the challenges are, we learned more about how hollowed out the systems were, we learned more about the challenges in processing, we learned more about, of course, the impact of what the influx of unaccompanied children would be on these considerations.
Kaitlin Collins: (17:11)
But shouldn’t you have assessed that before making a commitment?
Jen Psaki: (17:13)
The President made the announcement in early February, and he felt it was important to send the message to the world, which remains his view, that we are now a country, again, that is going to welcome in refugees from around the world. That continues to be his point of view, continues to be his objective, continues to be his policy. But sometimes it takes a little bit time to lift up the hood, kick around the tires and see what the big problems are. And he made that announcement within two weeks of taking office, so clearly we’ve had some time to do it since then. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (17:44)
Thank you, Jen. I’m still just a little bit confused about what changed between 1:00 PM on Friday and around 4:30 PM on Friday to go from, “We’re not raising the refugee cap to, we are raising it by May 15th.” What changed in those three and a half hours?
Jen Psaki: (18:01)
Well, I think as I was just outlined, we never said we’re not raising the refugee cap. In the morning we said, actually, and with the information we put out, was that once we reach 15,000 we will raise it. That was not accounted for in some of how people were [crosstalk 00:18:16] let me finish. Some of how people were digesting the information, and we want it to be clear and send a message that we are a country that is welcoming refugees. Let’s be clear, we are changing the policies of the last administration. We are changing the policy of not welcoming in people from Africa or people from the Middle East. That was the biggest factor preventing refugees from coming in during the last administration.
Speaker 2: (18:39)
So are you saying this had nothing to do with the pushback from some Democrats on Capitol Hill, from Senator Dick Durbin to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? It had nothing to do with that?
Jen Psaki: (18:48)
I don’t think you’ve articulated to me what our change in policy was? What was our change in policy from the morning to the afternoon?
Speaker 2: (18:53)
The Executive Order from Friday morning said that the admission of up to 15,000 refugees remains justified. Period. And yes, there was a caveat that you could raise that cap later. But I mean, it expressively says that right there-
Jen Psaki: (19:06)
That’s a pretty important caveat, that when we reached 15,000, a subsequent Presidential determination could be made. And again, the biggest challenge-
Speaker 2: (19:16)
Then why [inaudible 00:19:18] that clarification?
Jen Psaki: (19:18)
Because people weren’t understanding what we were conveying to the public and weren’t conveying what we were trying to project to countries around the world. And it’s incumbent upon us to make sure there’s an understanding of what the President’s policies are, what he’s trying to achieve, and what he feels morally is that we’re going to welcome in refugees from around the world. Change the policies from the past administration where they were not welcoming in refugees from the Middle East and Africa. And that was important to him to take that first step and move it forward.
Speaker 2: (19:49)
The line said, “The admission of up to 15,000 refugees remains justified.” Can you understand how some people would interpret that? [crosstalk 00:19:59].
Jen Psaki: (19:58)
Well, I think we all have a responsibility to provide all of the context. And so what I’m conveying is that we also included, “… is reached that a subsequent Presidential determination would be issued to increase admissions.” And again, the battle is not the cap. The issue has been the limitations that have been put in place in the past. We overturned those and changed those. And it was always meant to be a first step.
Speaker 2: (20:23)
Back to my other question. Did this have anything to do with the pushback from Democrats on Capitol Hill? There was-
Jen Psaki: (20:27)
I don’t think you’ve articulated what our change in policy is? So go ahead-
Speaker 2: (20:32)
That’s not my job to do that. That’s not my job to do that.
Jen Psaki: (20:32)
Well, it is if you’re asking a question.
Speaker 2: (20:34)
I’m asking about the pushback from Progressive’s on Capitol Hill. Did that-
Jen Psaki: (20:37)
Was our change from the morning to the afternoon?
Speaker 2: (20:40)
The change from the morning to the afternoon was that you explicitly said the admission of up to 15,000 refugees remains justified. And in the afternoon you said that the President would be raising the cap on or before May 15th.
Jen Psaki: (20:53)
In the morning. We also said that if 15,000 is reached that a subsequent presidential determination would be issued to increase admissions. That was not clearly understood. We felt it was incumbent upon us to make sure people understood and were clear that our objective was to welcome in more refugees and we remain committed to our goal.
Speaker 2: (21:13)
And I have one more question.
Jen Psaki: (21:15)
Speaker 2: (21:16)
President Biden over the weekend called what happened at the border a crisis. Is that now the official White House position, that there is indeed a crisis at the border?
Jen Psaki: (21:25)
Let me first say that we have made some progress, some progress, in moving children out of Border Patrol facilities into shelters. Nearly 1000 unaccompanied minors were transferred out of CBP facilities and into the care of Health and Human Services just this weekend. We still have a lot of work to do, but that is a step forward in our view. The President does not feel that children coming to our border seeking refuge from violence, economic hardships, and other dire circumstances is a crisis. He does feel that the crisis in Central America, the dire circumstances-
Jen Psaki: (22:03)
It does feel that the crisis in Central America, the dire circumstances that many are fleeing from that, that is a situation we need to spend our time, our effort on, and we need to address it if we’re going to prevent more of an influx of migrants from coming in years to come. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (22:17)
Thanks, Jen. The readout from Jake Sullivan’s call just hit a little bit ago.
Jen Psaki: (22:22)
Oh, okay. Timely.
Speaker 3: (22:23)
But it didn’t mention Navalny, and the Russians, of course, last week said that President Biden didn’t mention him in their call. Any the reason why his name hasn’t been in the readouts?
Jen Psaki: (22:33)
Well, again, I reiterated that the President’s first call with President Putin he conveyed a range of concerns we have, including the treatment of Alexei Navalny. We issued, in coordination with our European partners, a number of sanctions in response to the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. I obviously haven’t spoken to our National Security Team about the call, given I was out here for the call. So I’d have to check on that for you.
Speaker 3: (23:02)
And then another question on the refugee camp. You mentioned the infrastructure constraints, et cetera. I mean, how close do you think you all can get to the 62,500? I mean, is there an initial projection of what you’re hoping to hit for that?
Jen Psaki: (23:15)
We want to get to that and we want to provide that to all of you, and our team is currently assessing exactly that.
Speaker 3: (23:23)
And then lastly, on the Chauvin trial. We’re expecting a verdict any day now. I know you said you’re not going to get ahead of it, but with that, we’ve also seen, of course, the shooting of Adam Toledo in Chicago. What is the White House doing to address policing? Are there any more executive orders in the pipeline or under consideration? I mean, what signal are you going to send to those communities?
Jen Psaki: (23:49)
Well, there’s a number of steps we’ve actually taken, the Department of Justice has taken. Let me first reiterate that the President has said repeatedly that he believes we need police reform. That is why he’s calling on Congress to deliver that to his desk. It is incumbent upon Congress and the Senate to move forward. And, obviously, there are discussions and negotiations about what that looks like, but we’ve seen an unacceptable and a longstanding trend that is the cause of immense pain and hardship across the country. During the campaign, then former Vice President Biden emphasize the importance of the Justice Department using the authority he spearheaded as a Senator to investigate systemic police misconduct. And there are a couple of steps that have been taken in recent weeks.
Jen Psaki: (24:35)
Last week, Attorney General Garland reversed a Trump administration memo that limited the use of consent decrees with respect to investigation of police departments and reversing the prior memo returns to the DOJ to the use of all civil rights enforcement tools that has for this crucial at work. The President also pledged to appoint DOJ leadership that would prioritize pattern or practice investigations. That would, of course, ensure that investigations into racially unfair and inappropriate conduct were taken seriously and prioritized. And he has two critical nominees pending who would do exactly that, Vanita Gupta to be Associate Attorney General and Kristen Clarke to head the Civil Rights Division. He also, of course, firmly supports the George Floyd Act. As I’ve said, he believes there’s definite urgency at this point in time and will continue to convey that.
Jen Psaki: (25:28)
I’d also note our initial budget calls for increasing funding for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division by millions of dollars in order to advance accountability and reform for abusive police practices. And, finally, multiple states have enacted bipartisan policing reform statutes in recent months, and we believe that those are encouraging signs in some states of the country. It’s not the only thing that needs to happen. We need federal legislation, but that’s also something we certainly have been encouraging.
Speaker 3: (25:56)
One last question domestically, if I may. Is the White House committed to including the $400 billion for elder care in the NJP package?
Jen Psaki: (26:06)
The caregiving proposal we have in there? Obviously, we believe that, that is important, imperative, and that will help address what we see as a caregiving crisis in our country where two million women have left the workforce. A lot of those women have done so because they are in what many call the sandwich generation where you’re caring for elders and you’re also caring for children. Also, the caregivers themselves are only being paid about an average of $11 an hour. That’s completely unacceptable. That’s why we proposed that in that package. There will be a range of views. There are a lot of members who are absolutely for that and adamant that it should be included. There are some who don’t feel that way. So we’ll have the conversation. More of those are happening this week. And we’ll go from there.
Speaker 3: (26:49)
Could it slip into the next package just to make it more palatable for this one to pass?
Jen Psaki: (26:54)
It’s a great question, but we’re not quite there. And the mechanics or the mechanisms for what different components will be, how they will move forward on the Hill, we’re eager to have those conversations with leaders in Congress. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (27:04)
Thanks, Jen. India is facing a critical shortage of raw materials necessary to make vaccines and officials there are urging the U.S. to lift the U.S. embargo of exporting those raw materials. My colleagues in India are reporting today that the Biden administration recently told India that its request was being considered and will be active in “at the earliest”. Could you provide some more details on that and maybe some timeline?
Jen Psaki: (27:29)
Sure. So Ambassador Katherine Tai, of course, gave some remarks at a World Trade Organization Virtual Conference last week and she highlighted a couple of points that are very representative of our view. One, being the significant inequities we are seeing in access to vaccines between developed and developing countries are completely unacceptable. Extraordinary times require extraordinary leadership, communication, and creativity. We are, of course, working with WTO members on a global response to COVID. That includes a number of components, whether it’s $4 billion committed to COVAX or discussions about how we can aid and assist countries that need help the most. But our focus is on determining the most effective steps that will help get the pandemic under control. We don’t have anything further in terms of next steps or a timeline, but we are considering a range of options.
Speaker 4: (28:26)
I did a quick review of the President’s daily schedule, and I found that the White House had 38 listings that dealt with the COVID pandemic.
Jen Psaki: (28:32)
Speaker 4: (28:33)
You conducted 32 COVID press briefings, 20 items dealing with the economy and jobs, six on infrastructure, but just two on guns. One was happenstance in Georgia. If the daily schedule represents a public expression of the White House’s priorities, why shouldn’t we conclude that the guns and violence is not a top priority?
Jen Psaki: (28:54)
Well, having played some role in some White Houses on the daily public schedule, I will tell you that it often includes the issues that the public, one, has the appetite most to hear updates on, and certainly the COVID pandemic is front and center for people across this country for understandable reasons. More than 560,000, I believe, people have died. People are worried about their loved ones, their family, and they want to hear more on what we’re doing. I will say that there are also some discussions and policies, and to go back to an earlier question, the discussions about Alexei Navalny in a separate category are actually an example of this as well, where conversations in private can be more effective. And on guns, there’s no confusion about where the President stands on guns. He spoke to this issue quite passionately on Friday.
Jen Psaki: (29:40)
He’s been an advocate through the course of his career for decades, not only verbally, but he’s led the fight to get background checks in place, to ensure the assault weapons ban was placed, lead the effort to get almost two dozen executive actions in place during the Obama-Biden administration, and just announced a few recently. There’s no confusion about his view. The American public also supports background checks, more than 80%. So I would say that this will continue to be a central focus of his presidency, of his time in public office, and he will use every lever he can to get it done, but I wouldn’t confuse public speeches for what actions or commitments he or any President has to an issue.
Speaker 4: (30:25)
One other quick question. There’s increasing evidence that methane emissions are much higher than what’s been accounted for. Is the President committed to releasing a specific target for methane reductions as part of the U.S. announcement this week?
Jen Psaki: (30:38)
I know we’ll start some preview and background calls tomorrow, and hopefully we’re going to have some climate experts come to the briefing room later this week as well, but I’m just not going to get ahead of our planned public announcements or decisions that are still being finalized. Go ahead
Speaker 5: (30:52)
Thanks, Jen. There were some reports in recent days about people counterfeiting their vaccination cards, going around with cards that say they’re vaccinated so they can maybe get in places where they otherwise couldn’t. Is the administration aware of those reports, concerned, having conversations with local officials about how to counteract that potentially?
Jen Psaki: (31:11)
We are certainly aware of them. We’ve seen the reports and we, of course, defer to law enforcement and other authorities who are overseeing and cracking down where this has come up. I don’t have a number of percentage or data to give you on how expensive this is. I mean, the fact is, as of today, every adult American over 16 is now eligible. So the best way to get a vaccine card is to get vaccinated, and that’s what our focus will continue to be.
Speaker 5: (31:36)
Another question on the Navalny given Jake Sullivan’s comments yesterday about consequences.
Jen Psaki: (31:41)
Speaker 5: (31:42)
President Biden, obviously, has requested a summit with Vladimir Putin.
Jen Psaki: (31:45)
Speaker 5: (31:46)
If Navalny dies in Russian custody, is that summit still on the table?
Jen Psaki: (31:51)
Well, let’s certainly all hope and pray that, that is not the outcome we’re looking at. And, again, there are a range of private conversations that occur diplomatically, and we continue to reiterate publicly as well. Our call for him to be released, to be treated humanely, but I’m not going to get ahead of a horrible outcome like that. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (32:13)
I’ve got a vaccine question, but just first, a quick follow-up to my colleagues’ questions about the refugee camp earlier.
Jen Psaki: (32:20)
Speaker 6: (32:21)
You said that the issue about the cap statement on Friday was not clearly understood by some people. Would some of the President’s Democratic allies on the Hill be some of those people that did not clearly understand?
Jen Psaki: (32:33)
Well, I don’t think I was placing blame. I was more characterizing that we recognize that we needed to be clear and make sure people were understanding what our objective was and that the President remains committed to welcoming in refugees from around the world. The announcement on Friday was intended to be a first step, intended to convey clearly that we are overturning what we felt was a xenophobic policy of the past administration to prevent people from many parts of the Middle East and Africa from applying for refugee status.
Jen Psaki: (33:03)
From many parts of the Middle East and Africa from applying for refugee status and to resume flights, and that we remain committed to welcoming refugees in. So we provided more information as sometimes is necessary to do.
Speaker 6: (33:15)
On the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it’s been almost a week since it’s been paused, indications that it may still be a few more days before we understand what the next step will be. Is the White House concerned, or what is the level of concern that J&J’s reputation may be harmed during this time period and it could have hampered the administration’s efforts to reach out to skeptical or hesitant Americans about getting vaccinated?
Jen Psaki: (33:38)
Well, it’s interesting we actually haven’t seen data unless you have, which is possible, that has suggested that has been the outcome. The FDA is the gold standard, they took this step out of an abundance of caution, as they’ve said, to ensure that the American people could have confidence in their actions, the high level of review and the high standards that we have in the US government. They’re convening again on Friday as Dr. Fauci, I think spoke to over the weekend, so we’ll see what comes out of that. But what we’ve seen as it relates to confidence or hesitancy is that proudly speaking it’s really an issue of access and we’ve seen that as the case in many communities across the country. And our focus is on working to address that. In part access, I should say, but also in part messengers. And that’s why a huge amount of our $3 million in funding is focused on empowering and funding local messengers, whether it’s doctors or clergy or local civic leaders, because we know they are the most effective in conveying the efficacy of these vaccines.
Speaker 6: (34:41)
Jen Psaki: (34:42)
Speaker 7: (34:43)
Hey Jen, just a couple on the jobs bill and climate summit. Senator Cornyn and Senator Coons spoke about the possibility for a smaller narrower infrastructure bill in the range of $800 billion. Does the president see that as a viable alternative to what he’s proposed? And then how does he view this idea that there might be an opportunity to get some kind of a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure before you move on to the care economy? That if you can do it in the near term as Senator Coons suggested that you have that be the way to go.
Jen Psaki: (35:21)
Well, there are a range of ideas and proposals out there. Some Senator Coons, Senator Manchin, some Republican senators and some Democrats who may be more on the progressive wing of the party as well. And our objective at this point in time is to hear and listen to all of those and to determine what the path forward may look like in coordination and cooperation. The president’s bottom line here is that the only thing we can not do is fail to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, rebuild our economy and create millions of jobs. That’s the only piece he does not want to see us fail to as a country and fail to do as, hopefully in a bipartisan manner, ideally. But in terms of the ideas being put forward, we’re quite open to a range of mechanisms for agreed upon legislation moving forward. Smaller packages, pieces being peeled off. Right now there’s the nitty-gritty work going on in congress, where members are meeting, staffs are meeting, committee staff are meeting to discuss what’s possible, where there’s agreement. We welcome that. In terms of what the package or size looks like, we’re just not quite there yet.
Speaker 7: (36:32)
On the climate summit, I know you don’t want to get ahead of the decision on emissions targets for 2030. But broadly, how was the administration thinking about striking the balance between a target that’s aggressive and that will meet the needs of the demands of climate change versus ones that may not be achievable include job losses in the next 10 years. How is the president looking to strike that balance?
Jen Psaki: (37:01)
Well, the president believes that green jobs are jobs. I mean, they are a way to invest in our… And this is very central to the American Jobs Plan. And when we talk about the climate summit and how we’re thinking about setting these targets and how we’re going to achieve them, a big part of that is investing in areas of our economy where there’re industries of the future, where we can create and build out industries and create jobs, where we’re also able to meet our targets that we’ll set. So he thinks of them as in lock step and that’s one of the reasons why when he put out his climate plan during the campaign, he had labor leaders and climate advocates meet together and discuss how we could work together on a path forward. But, if you look at areas like electric vehicles or, weatherizing infrastructure, these are areas where there’s alignment on they’re creating jobs, they’re investing in industries, they’re putting people back to work, and they’re also doing it in a way that is helping us reach our climate targets.
Speaker 7: (38:09)
Can I just do one more?
Jen Psaki: (38:10)
Speaker 7: (38:10)
Just to follow to Nancy’s question. You mentioned the The Office of Refugee Resettlement that exhausted its funding. Do you expect the administration to ask for some type of supplemental for that office in the next few weeks to help them meet their demands?
Jen Psaki: (38:27)
I would say the first step there’s some considerations of reprogramming funding, which is of course a factor internally. But I’m not aware of an intention to request additional funding. I can check and see, obviously we’ll put out our budget that is forward-looking in May. But in terms of, I think you’re asking about an emergency supplemental, I’m not aware of that consideration, but I’ll check on that for you and others who I’m sure are interested-
Speaker 8: (38:50)
Can I jump in real quick?
Jen Psaki: (38:51)
Speaker 8: (38:51)
Are we still on track for the one o’clock presidential meeting? The [inaudible 00:38:54] call?
Jen Psaki: (38:55)
Speaker 8: (38:56)
Okay, so you [crosstalk 00:38:57]-
Jen Psaki: (38:56)
We’re almost wrapped here. Let’s just go to one in the back. Go ahead. Sorry. [crosstalk 00:39:00] I was not paying attention to the time, thank you for the reminder go ahead.
Speaker 9: (39:02)
Thanks. Just a couple quick ones. On Johnson & Johnson between the pause and then the issues of the Baltimore plant is the administration still expecting Johnson & Johnson to be on track to deliver its promised amount of doses by the end of the month?
Jen Psaki: (39:16)
Well, I think the next step with Johnson & Johnson is for the FDA to meet and determine what the considerations are for the path forward. As we look at our own preparedness here, we have ordered enough supply to ensure we can meet the demands by the end of May and enough supply to vaccinate every adult American by the end of July, without Johnson & Johnson. So that’s where our objective and our focus remains. Pfizer has also announced that they are going to try to expedite some of their production as well, but in terms of Johnson & Johnson, the next step is really Friday and whatever comes from there. And we certainly will refer to the FDA. I’m sorry. We have to wrap up because you guys are gathering in about 30 seconds here, but thank you everyone. So much.
Speaker 10: (39:58)