Dec 6, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript December 6
December 6, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
… Act will lower prescription drug prices for millions of Americans. Ahead of these remarks, the president is currently meeting with some of the one in four Americans who take prescription drugs and struggle to afford them. And he’ll talk about that in his remarks today. He will discuss their conversation and the plates of the people he’s meeting with; the three people he’s meeting with struggle to pay for insulin, even rationing doses. These stories are all too common. Nearly 30% of Americans who take prescription drugs have skipped a dose. The president’s Build Back Better Act will provide relief to Americans, struggling to pay for their prescription drugs. And for good reason, Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Often two to three time, as much as citizens from other developed countries.
Jen Psaki: (00:45)
That includes many medicines that were invented long ago and cost very little to make such as insulin, which was invented a century ago and cost only a few dollars to make. But whose cost has skyrocketed in recent years often to over a thousand dollars. The president’s Build Back Better Act will cap the cost of insulin to $35 a month, limit seniors’ prescription drug expenses to $2,000 a year, empower Medicare to negotiate down prices for some of the most expensive drugs, penalize drug companies that raise the cost of medicines more than inflation, lower cost for seniors by ensuring they never pay more than $2,000 a year for drugs under Medicare part D, and expand healthcare coverage to millions more Americans. He also isn’t waiting to take action. He’s already acted to bring down the cost of prescription drugs with an executive order that increases competition, which will lower prescription drug costs, directed the FDA to get less expensive, generic drugs to consumers faster, and ordered the FDA to work with states and tribes to import drugs safely from Canada.
Jen Psaki: (01:47)
This is expected to save Coloradans, for example, 60% of their drug expenses. So you’ll hear the president talk more about that later this afternoon. Also, just wanted to provide a quick update on our booster program. To date, the United States has administered more than 47 million boosters. Just in the last week, we’ve seen strong demand for boosters with close to 7 million Americans getting their booster in the past week. This is critical to ensuring Americans have the best protection against COVID-19 as we head into the winter. And as part of our comprehensive push on boosters this week, CMS will issue email booster reminders to the more than 14 million people that receive Medicare emails. It will also launch booster reminders at the beginning of calls to its 1-800 line, which receives more than 2 million calls per month. Connor, why don’t you kick us off?
Thank you. First, just on the Olympics and the diplomatic boycott. Several reports, the president has decided to move forward with the move. Is that correct that he’s come to his decision?
Jen Psaki: (02:50)
The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic games, given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in [inaudible 00:03:05] and other human rights abuses. The athletes on team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games. US diplomat or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in [inaudible 00:03:29]. And we simply can’t do that as the president has told President Xi standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans. We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights and we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has already suggested there’ll be counter measures, firm counter measures, I believe the term that they used. Have they indicated to the administration yet, what sort of action that they might take for this move?
Jen Psaki: (04:00)
Well, I don’t have anything to read out in terms of their intentions or what they would convey from officials from the PRC, but our view is that’s not the right way to view or frame our relationship. Our view is that cooperation on transnational issues is not a favor to us. It is not a transaction. The PRC should be taking action on issues to meet the needs of the global community. And that’s what they should do in order to be a part of leadership in the global community. So I don’t have anything to read out on their front. They can certainly speak for themselves.
And can you walk us through a little bit of the logistics of tomorrow’s video meeting with President Putin? Just everything from who will be in the room on the US side, how much time has been blocked out for the meeting, and how much do you expect to be focused on Ukraine versus Iran cybersecurity, some of the other issues of tension or mutual interest in the relationship?
Jen Psaki: (04:57)
Sure. Well, I’m certain we will put out a list of the delegation, who will be attending. I can see if that’s something that we can provide to all of you later this afternoon. And I can also check on the logistics of how much time is blocked out for the meeting. In terms of the focus of the meeting, as was announced, when we announced this weekend, it is an opportunity for the president to underscore, of course, US concerns with Russian military on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. It’s also an opportunity to discuss a range of topics in the US and Russia relationship, including strategic stability, cyber, and regional issues. But you can certainly expect that our concerns about the military activities on the border will be a prominent part of the discussion. Go ahead.
Cecilia : (05:46)
Thanks Jen. Should Americans be prepared for the likelihood to see American forces on the ground in the region, in the event that Russia does invade?
Jen Psaki: (05:55)
I’m not going to get ahead of the president’s conversations with his trans-Atlantic partners, which is going to happen later this afternoon. And we’ll provide you a list of who will be participating in that call as soon as those scheduling details are finalized. But I would say that our objective here, Cecilia, is conveying diplomatically that this is the moment for Russia to pull back their military buildup at the border. That diplomacy is the right path forward here, but that we are going to continue to coordinate closely with our partners, our trans-Atlantic partners on a range of economic sanctions and steps that can be taken should President Putin decide to move forward.
Cecilia : (06:34)
And how would the White House characterize relations with Russia heading into this call right now?
Jen Psaki: (06:39)
I think our objective from the beginning of the president’s time in office has not been to escalate the relationship, but has been to move to a more stable footing in the relationship. But certainly that means that we can raise concerns where we have them, specifically about areas like the military buildup we’ve seen on the border in Ukraine. Many of us lived through a similar playbook back in 2014 and the president is not going to hold back in conveying his concern and also conveying our conversations and our preparations should they be warranted. We don’t know that president Putin has made a decision. We don’t know that yet, but that’s why this is an opportunity to have a conversation. But there’s also an opportunity in this call to have a conversation about a range of topics, where there can be mutual interest, whether it’s Iran’s new nuclear capabilities as a member of the P5+1 talks and what that looks like moving forward and other strategic stability issues where we have worked together in the past.
Cecilia : (07:44)
Just very quickly [inaudible 00:07:46] is a diplomatic boycott enough, given the human rights abuses?
Jen Psaki: (07:50)
Well, let me first, everybody can call it whatever they want to call it. I would just remind you that often when you use diplomatic boycott, that phrase, that brings people back to 1980 and we are not… The athletes will be participating. We will be rooting for the athletes from home. I am an Olympic’s obsessed person. So I’m looking forward to doing that. But I think this is just an indication that it cannot be business as usual, that not sending a diplomatic delegation sends that message. That does not mean… I think this was your question just to come back to it, that is the end of the concerns we will raise about human rights abuses in [inaudible 00:08:28]. We’ve already taken a number of steps. We’ve been a leader in the world in leading actions through the G7. We’re obviously also working with Congress, but this is just sending a message that given these human rights abuses, we can not proceed with business as usual. Go ahead.
Are you trying to get other allies to join the United States in this diplomatic boycott?
Jen Psaki: (08:47)
Well, Steve, we have informed them of our decision and obviously we will leave it to them to make their own decisions.
Why not pull American athletes from the Olympics?
Jen Psaki: (08:56)
I don’t think that we felt it was the right step to penalize athletes who have been training, preparing for this moment. And we felt that we could send a clear message by not sending an official US delegation.
And on the Putin call, how specific will the president be with Putin on what the consequences will be if there’s an invasion?
Jen Psaki: (09:22)
I think the president will be clear as we have conveyed publicly that we have been preparing a range of economic sanctions or economic options that could have a detrimental impact on the Russian economy. In terms of what level of detail, I will leave the president the space to do that himself. Go ahead.
On those potential sanctions, obviously European partners have different equities here, particularly on the energy side of things. Will these all be done in concert with trans-Atlantic allies or is there a possibility that the US would operate some on a unilateral basis?
Jen Psaki: (09:50)
It’s a great question, Phil. I think the president is going to have this conversation with a number of key partners this afternoon. Obviously, it’s important to us to move in coordination and in lockstep with our trans-Atlantic partners and allies, but I don’t want to rule anything in or out before those conversations are happening.
And on the domestic front, Senator Schumer sent a letter to his colleagues this morning making clear that his deadline of Christmas to finish Build Back Better still stands at this point time. There’s still a lot of work to do that. Is that a deadline you guys subscribe to, would like to see, or do you see it going further than that?
Jen Psaki: (10:22)
Well, as you noted in his dear colleague letter, a very Washington term, Leader Schumer made clear today that he’s moving full speed ahead and he outlined in very specific wonky hill detail that I’m sure you of all people appreciate, Phil, all of the work happening behind the scenes. Obviously we’re engaged in that, but we certainly support Leader Schumer’s effort and push to move this forward and get it done in the coming weeks.
I guess what I’m asking is if Christmas isn’t… Is Christmas drop dead, or can this be something that moves past Christmas, if the legislative realities make that the case?
Jen Psaki: (10:57)
I certainly understand why you’re asking. We have many conversations and briefings between now and Christmas. So we’re-
Jen Psaki: (11:03)
… conversations and briefings between now and Christmas, so we’re just encouraged by leader Schumer’s effort to move this forward, all of the work happening behind the scenes among staffers, among members, to move this forward and get it done.
Jen Psaki: (11:13)
Go ahead, Ashley.
Thank you. Jen, on the democracy summit, can you explain why countries such as Hungary, which is an EU member and Turkey, which is a NATO member, are not invited while other countries like the Philippines and Pakistan, which has some specially egregious record on human rights, are included?
Jen Psaki: (11:29)
Sure. Well, the democracy summit that will happen later this week is an opportunity to bring together US officials, civil society leaders, and foreign leaders who represent a diverse array of experiences to talk about strengthening democracy, defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights. Inclusion or an invitation is not a stamp of approval on their approach to democracy, nor is exclusion a stamp of the opposite of that, of disapproval. So it’s just meant to have a broad scope of leaders, a broad scope of private sector and civil society officials represented.
Just to follow up on that briefly, of the roughly 110 countries you’ve invited, there’s a group of about a dozen or so that are a little, to use a non-wonky term, [cuspy 00:12:19]. They feel like they could go either way. Can you just give a little thinking on how those decisions were made when there was a debate over a country?
Jen Psaki: (12:26)
Sure. I would think say broadly speaking that this is an opportunity, again, not to celebrate everything we’ve done on democracy, either for the United States or all of these countries, and call it a day. It’s an opportunity to continue to strive to do better. The President feels that democracy is always a work in progress. You’re always trying to make yourself better, to lead better, to push other countries to be better. This is an opportunity to do exactly that. So understand, of course, the interest in the invite list, but it’s not meant to be, again, a stamp of approval or disapproval. Just meant to have a diverse range of voices and faces and representatives at the discussion.
Jen Psaki: (13:08)
Thank you, Jen. You mentioned that Biden was obviously deeply involved with the Ukraine in 2014.
Jen Psaki: (13:15)
I’m wondering if you could talk about what his takeaways are from that experience, because a lot of the things that he’s saying this time, supporting NATO allies on the Eastern blank, sanctions, those sound like the same things that you guys tried to do in 2014, and it didn’t stop Russia from taking Crimea. So why does he think this will be different?
Jen Psaki: (13:34)
Well, I think first our objective at this point, Mara, is, of course, to prevent them from moving forward and to convey on the front end that we have been working in lockstep and in coordination with Congress, with countries, our NATO partners, with trans-Atlantic partners, to prepare a range of steps that could be detrimental to their economy.
Jen Psaki: (13:59)
I would say that there are some certainly lessons learned, or things that we’ve watched and seen, that we certainly saw back in 2014, a massive spike, more than tenfold, in social media activity pushing anti-Ukrainian propaganda approaching levels last seen in the lead up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. That was something that didn’t have a lot of past precedent at the time, but to us, we see that as an indication of efforts to influence inside and outside, of course, as well.
Jen Psaki: (14:26)
We’ve also seen evidence, as we’ve noted here, of Russia making plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine. So I would say our objective or the President’s objective is to, on the front end, always lead with diplomacy, have those conversations. We’re having them directly with Russian leaders. The Secretary of State obviously met with his counterpart last week, and we’re having those at a range of levels, the President speaking with President Putin tomorrow. But in the meantime, to prepare a range of options should they decide to move forward.
Why will your efforts this time be more successful than last time? Why do you think they will?
Jen Psaki: (14:59)
Well, we will see if they are, but our objective first and foremost is to prevent the move forward, the military progression that we saw happen in 2014.
I have one quick question on testing. Last week, obviously, the President explained some ramp up in testing, but there’s still a lot of countries like Germany and the UK and South Korea that basically have massive testing free of charge or for a nominal fee. Why can’t that be done in the United States?
Jen Psaki: (15:25)
Well, I would say first we have eight tests that have been approved by the FDA here. We see that as the gold standard. Whether or not all of those tests would meet that standard is a question for the scientists and medical experts, but I don’t suspect they would. Our objective is to continue to increase accessibility and decrease costs. If you look at what we’ve done over the course of time, we’ve quadrupled the size of our testing plan, we’ve cut the cost significantly over the past few months, and this effort to ensure you’re able to get your tests of refunded means 150 million Americans will be able to get free tests.
It’s not complicated, though. Why not just make them free and give them out and have them available everywhere?
Jen Psaki: (16:09)
Should we just send one to every American?
Jen Psaki: (16:13)
Then what happens if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?
All I know is that other countries seem to be making them available in greater quantities for less money.
Jen Psaki: (16:24)
Well, I think we share the same objective, which is to make them less expensive and more accessible, right? Every country’s going to do that differently. I was just noting that, again, our tests go through the FDA approval process. That’s not the same process that… It doesn’t work that way in every single country, but what we’re working to do here is build on what we’ve done to date and continue to build out our testing capacity because, Mara, we absolutely recognize that this is a key component of fighting the virus.
Speaker 1: (16:50)
Thanks, Jen. On Russia first, you said that the goal is to prevent Putin from invading. So what is President Biden willing to threaten in this phone call will happen if Russia invades, just beyond more sanctions?
Jen Psaki: (17:02)
Well, again, I think that it’s not about threats. It’s about conveying that the right path forward here is through diplomacy. In the meantime, on financial sanctions, we’ve consulted significantly with our allies and believe we have a path forward that would impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy. You can call that a threat, you can call that a fact, you can call that preparation, whatever you want to call it, but that is something we’ve talked about publicly. Certainly the President would convey that as well.
Speaker 1: (17:31)
Is President Biden prepared to warn that there’s the possibility of US military involved if Russia invades Ukraine?
Jen Psaki: (17:38)
Again, I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s conversation, but that is not our first objective. I would note that in the past, if you look back at 2014, that one of the outcomes here, if they were to decide to move forward, is that the other countries in the Eastern flank, in many of them NATO partners, will be looking for reassurance from the United States. That’s something that was a follow-up to 2014. I’m not sure that is what Russia wants to see, but that would be a natural consequence if they were to move forward as well.
Speaker 1: (18:09)
Then on China, did the White House consider going a step further and barring US athletes from participating in the games?
Jen Psaki: (18:17)
I’m not going to get into additional considerations. All I can convey to you is where we landed and the decision that was made and why.
Speaker 1: (18:23)
Why did you make that particular decision? Why not go further and bar US athletes from the games?
Jen Psaki: (18:29)
Because not sending a US delegation sends a clear message that we cannot conduct ourselves with business as usual, that we are not in a state where business as usual is appropriate at a time where there are human rights abuses that we have been outspoken about, that we have taken actions on, and we feel this sends a clear message.
Jen Psaki: (18:48)
At the same time, we believe US athletes, people who have been training, giving up a lot of blood, sweat, and tears preparing for these Olympics, should be able to go and compete. We look forward to cheering for them from home. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (19:02)
Oh. Thank you, Jen. On the violent crime spike that we’ve been seeing, there have been smash and grab robberies, there was the pretty alarming murder in the wealthy Hollywood neighborhood last week, and then an attack, a violent robbery in Pacific Palisades on Friday. This is similar to the crime spike that we saw over the summer, and one of the President’s biggest pushes to address that was the DOJ strike teams that were sent out to those five cities. It was DC, New York, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco. Since those strike forces were assembled in July, have they accomplished anything?
Jen Psaki: (19:38)
Look, I think we sent those strike forces in part because of the spike in gun violence, something that continues to be a concern. We sent them, the Department of Justice, I should say, sent them in order to work in partnership in lockstep with law enforcement on the ground. We’ve also recently taken steps, the Justice Department, the FBI, and federal law enforcement have been working with local jurisdictions, especially areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and others, where we’ve seen a rush of break-ins to offer their assistance and provide assistance through multi jurisdictional task forces.
Jen Psaki: (20:11)
We know that we’ve seen over the course of time, while we’ll let people determine what the cause and effect is, we know we’ve seen an increase in crime over the course of the pandemic. We’ve seen that timeline. What the President has been focused on doing is working to ensure there’s funding to support local cops, to support local jurisdictions, to ensure that a law enforcement at a federal level is a partner, both in the short and long term, to address either these spikes in crimes or gun violence, which is an ongoing concern, and to ensure there’s adequate funding in the budget.
Jen Psaki: (20:44)
So that’s what we are working to do. The Department of Justice, I’m sure, can provide you an update on the strike forces.
Speaker 2: (20:50)
Are you talking about the funding and the build back better plan, then?
Jen Psaki: (20:53)
The funding and the President’s proposed budget, which is an increase significantly over what former President Trump proposed.
Speaker 2: (20:59)
So are you saying that passing this spending plan would address crime then in that way?
Jen Psaki: (21:04)
Well, I’m saying that passing the President’s budget, which is something obviously we want to get to next year, since we could only get to it short term, CR has significant increase in funding to support police departments, support the fighting of crime, and a significant increase from former President Trump and something President supports.
Speaker 2: (21:26)
Then is there any concern that not having an ATF nominee while all this is going on is somehow leaving vulnerability or a gap in leadership?
Jen Psaki: (21:33)
Well, I think our collective view here is that the blocking of a fully qualified experienced former ATF agent from serving in that role certainly is something Republicans didn’t have to take the step to do, but here we are. So we have to nominate a new person. When the president finds the right person, I’m sure he’ll be prepared to do that. But again, we could have had a nominee, somebody who was qualified, ready, and prepared to serve in that role confirmed and working.
Speaker 2: (22:02)
Real quick, I just want to ask about the Washington Post-
Jen Psaki: (22:03)
… been in that role, confirmed and working.
Speaker 2: (22:03)
Real quick, I just want to ask about the Washington Post article. There’s another article that’s come out after a string of articles detailing dysfunction in the vice president’s office. Then the director of operations put out a tweet today talking about how much he loved his job. There was a similar sort of social media push this summer, following some negative headline about ongoings in the vice president’s office. Did anybody ask the deputy director to put out a positive tweet today, or was that all him?
Jen Psaki: (22:31)
I’m not aware of any asks for a positive tweet or a specific tweet. I would point you to the vice president’s office, but I work with a number of people in the vice president’s office who certainly are looking forward to continuing their jobs. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (22:44)
Jen, did President Biden give President Xi any kind of a heads-up about his intention and decision-making with this diplomatic boycott?
Jen Psaki: (22:51)
When they spoke a few weeks ago?
Speaker 3: (22:53)
Jen Psaki: (22:55)
The Olympics were not a topic of discussion during that call.
Speaker 3: (22:59)
Will there be any conversations between the two governments explaining the decision-making?
Jen Psaki: (23:02)
Certainly, lower level than President Biden, they were made aware of the decision.
Speaker 4: (23:08)
On the call tomorrow with President Putin, the president says he expects it will be a long one. Of course, tensions with Ukraine will be a major topic of discussion, but not the only one. How much time do you anticipate will be devoted to that, versus the follow-ups from the Geneva summit on strategic stability and cybersecurity?
Jen Psaki: (23:24)
Well, we certainly expect Ukraine to be a major topic of discussion during the conversation, but there are other topics that we also expect to receive some attention. I understand the desire for an understanding of the breakdown. I expect we’ll have a better breakdown once the call actually happens, that we can provide to all of you tomorrow.
Speaker 4: (23:44)
Finally, just on COVID, Dr. Fauci said yesterday the Africa travel bans are being evaluated on a daily basis, that it’s possible the policy could end at any time. What would the White House need to see happen in order to lift those bans?
Jen Psaki: (23:58)
It wouldn’t be the White … it would be a recommendation from Dr. Fauci and the health and medical experts that we should pull back those travel restrictions. That’s something that’s being evaluated and discussed on a daily basis.
Speaker 5: (24:10)
Back on Ukraine, just to distill it down to a couple important terms of art, does the president view the current territorial integrity of Ukraine in the vital national security interest of the United States?
Jen Psaki: (24:21)
I would say of course we view the territorial integrity of Ukraine as a vital interest, global interest, for the global community. It is of our interest to ensure there’s stability across Europe, but I’m not going to give further definition to it.
Speaker 5: (24:39)
Okay, but if the answer is yes, it means one thing. If the answer is no, it means …
Jen Psaki: (24:43)
Well, I think you’re asking this and sort of you want a yes or no answer, and I would say foreign policy is a little more nuanced than that. Keep going. What’s your next question?
Speaker 5: (24:51)
Next question has to do with the return of the Migrant Protection Protocol, the Remain in Mexico program. Immigrant rights advocates say that the idea that the United States government is going to be able to facilitate lawyers for migrants who want them is an empty promise. What can you say to assure those people that, in fact, you live by that commitment?
Jen Psaki: (25:07)
Well, I would say first to all of these people that it is not our preference to be reimplementing and reinstituting the Migrant Protection Protocols. We are doing that because of a court order and a legal requirement to do so, and that we have put in place a number of changes to make … from the Department of Homeland Security, to improve some humanitarian components. We still feel that the program is inefficient, inhumane, and we did not eagerly reimplement it, I should say. In terms of people who are skeptics, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can, as we are required by court order to implement this, to take steps to ensure that we are injecting additional humanitarian considerations and providing the assistance that we have promised to people who are participating in the program. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (26:02)
David Barnea, the chief of Mossad, is in town. He met with the CIA director a few minutes ago. He’s trying to push a military option against the nuclear plants in Iran as a last resort. Would President Biden support this option in case that negotiation does not make any progress?
Jen Psaki: (26:21)
Well, every president has a range of options. I’m not going to outline those from here. Our approach, our desire, continues to be a diplomatic path forward. The last round of meetings were disappointing, and Iran did not come to the table prepared to make progress on the sixth round of negotiations. All of the negotiators are back at home having consultations. I’ll let them do that and give them the space to do that. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (26:46)
I have a couple questions.
Jen Psaki: (26:47)
Speaker 7: (26:48)
First, just to go back to Build Back Better. Obviously we know that the president is talking about drug pricing in that [inaudible 00:26:55], but I think the big question is still just where Senators Sinema and Manchin are on this. It has been for months at this point. As the president and senior staff work on negotiating with them, are they confident that something can actually get done in these next couple of weeks with those individual people? I know overall the committees can do their work, but still there’s been these sticking points for quite some time. They haven’t seemed, in their public comments recently, to really be yielding all that much. How do you handle that from here? Is the president planning on speaking or having either of those senators over in the next couple days?
Jen Psaki: (27:40)
We have been in close touch with a range of senators, including the ones you mentioned, at a senior staff level, and I expect that will continue. Of course, Leader Schumer certainly understands and knows that you need the majority, every single Democrat, in order to successfully move forward with a vote. In the meantime, he is leading the effort to do important preparations to get to that point. Obviously, the president is highlighting the components of the package on prescription drugs that lower the cost, that ensure that the millions of Americans who are dealing with covering the cost of insulin don’t have to choose between that and food or share insulin with other people, as some of the stories he’ll outline today will tell you. In terms of what individual senators will do or where they are, really, they have to speak for themselves.
Speaker 8: (28:29)
The Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court is holding its final public meeting tomorrow to vote on their report that will go to the president. What are your plans for how the president and White House staff will process that information and then respond to it? That came from an executive order with a 180-day timeline. Will there be a shorter timeline for an evaluation of this? I think that you’re seeing, just since the oral arguments last week on abortion, a lot of concern among a lot of people on the Democratic side about the Court, and how are you going to respond and move forward on those issues?
Jen Psaki: (29:13)
Well, so as you noted, later this afternoon it will be posted, and then there’ll be a meeting and they will … tomorrow, I believe, and that will be the next step in the process. The president will then get the report and will have time to review the report, but I don’t have a timeline for how long it will take him to review the report. I would remind you all, it’s not recommendations that he either accepts or denies. He asked this diverse group of experts from a range, from across the political spectrum, from across the viewpoint spectrum, to look at and assess a range of issues that have long been discussed and debated by Court experts, whether it is how cases are taken up or the length of individual justices serving or court expansion, and to assess and provide a review of that, not to make, again, here are the five recommendations, accept them or deny them. That’s the next step. It will be posted. You all will see it. Then in terms of how and when the president will review it and what that means, I will give him the space to do that.
Speaker 8: (30:20)
Okay, so there’s no kind of plan at this point of how you will [inaudible 00:30:23]?
Jen Psaki: (30:24)
Well, he’ll have to review it first, and I don’t think we’re going to set a timeline for what that looks like and what it will mean after that. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (30:33)
Thanks, Jen. The Biden administration today put out a big report addressing corruption. I want to ask you two quick and hopefully pretty easy questions about that. Shortly after President Biden’s virtual meeting with the Chinese president, the first son’s attorney said that he has finally divested from a Chinese investment fund controlled by state-owned entities. I was hoping you could commit to basic transparency about that transaction, including the name of the buyer, the dollar amount and the timing. The second question is my colleague, Miranda Divine, has a new book out called Laptop from Hell, and I was hoping that you could confirm that the laptop is indeed authentic and not Russian disinformation, as you seemed to suggest on Twitter last year.
Jen Psaki: (31:17)
Well, on the first, the president’s son is not an employee of the federal government, so I’d point you to his representatives. As it relates to the book, I have neither had the time nor interest in exploring or reading the book. Go ahead, Tina.
Speaker 9: (31:31)
The First Son’s attorney …
Jen Psaki: (31:32)
I think I answered your question. Go ahead. You can go to the representative of the person who’s not an employee of the federal government. Go ahead, Tina. I think we have to move on. Go ahead.
Is there anything the White House is doing to help parts of the U.S. where we’re seeing hospitals that are overwhelmed again with the Delta variant, like parts of Massachusetts and New York? Is there any help that can be sent out to help them?
Jen Psaki: (31:51)
Let me check on it specifically. What we have done over the past and I suspect we’re doing now, but I just don’t have the information in front of me, is working with state public health officials to ensure we are sending surge resources to them. Because as we’ve talked about a fair amount in here, it’s not just the vaccines, to your point. It’s ensuring that there are health and medical experts as needed, additional resources. Sometimes it’s medical needs or medical equipment needs, and we’ve been really surging those on an as-need basis. I will check and see on Massachusetts, if there’s anything in addition.
Could I just ask about if the White House is concerned about the Child Tax Credit expiring on December 15th? Is that something that’s being discussed with Senate Democrats in negotiations with them?
Jen Psaki: (32:34)
Absolutely we’re concerned, as should millions of Americans be. That is an area that is a part of the president’s Build Back Better agenda, and why he and we are so eager to get it done. Go ahead.
Speaker 10: (32:46)
Thanks Jen. You said in response to Ashley of the president’s belief that democracy is always a work in progress, and that you have to push yourself to do better as well as pushing other people to do better. What does the president believe the United States needs to do better?
Jen Psaki: (33:00)
Well, I think first, when the president took office …
Jen Psaki: (33:03)
Well, I think first when the president took office, one of his key objectives is restoring trust and faith in not just government, but in institutions, and doing that in a range of ways. That means not only respecting and valuing the freedom of press and media here and around the world, it also means ensuring we are speaking out against human rights and ensuring we are taking steps to address corruption around the world.
Jen Psaki: (33:28)
We just put out a major report on corruption today too, in advance of the Democracy Summit. So what I was getting at, I think is, and I think why you were asking is that we are continuing to work hard, do better, ensure we are protecting our own democracy here at home. And I think it is unquestionable that as people around the world, countries around the world, looked at the events of January 6th, looked at what happened here in the United States, it was clear that when the president came into office, this was going to be front center in his agenda and it has been.
Speaker 11: (34:04)
Shifting gears on one other question, besides Build Back Better, what legislation realistically does the president think that Democrats can pass into law before the end of his first year in office?
Jen Psaki: (34:14)
Before the end of his first year in office? So let’s see, next January. Look, there’s a lot of steps-
Speaker 11: (34:19)
Six weeks away now.
Jen Psaki: (34:20)
It is six weeks away. Look, I’m not going to get into the legislative calendar. I leave that to Leader Schumer to take steps on, and I’m not going to give a timeline on it, but the president obviously wants to get his Build Back Better agenda done as soon as possible. He wants to make voting rights a reality. He wants to get police reform done. He wants to ensure that the Chips Act passes through and we can ensure that we are taking additional steps in a bipartisan manner to address the supply chain crisis. He wants to get his nominees through. So there’s a lot that he would like to see happen in short order. And we’re going to continue to work with leaders to do that. Go ahead.
[inaudible 00:34:56] are you going to do a read out later of these leader calls?
Jen Psaki: (35:00)
Oh, after the call this afternoon? Yes, I expect we will.
And then lastly, did you have a reaction to the court in Burma finding Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of charges of incitement?
Jen Psaki: (35:09)
Yes. I believe that we put out a statement from, or the state department put out a statement, but let me reiterate some of these key points, Steve. The Burmese military’s regime’s unjust conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi and the repression of other democratically elected officials are yet further offense to democracy and justice in Burma. The regime’s continued disregard for the rule of law and its widespread use of violence against the Burmese people underscore the urgency of restoring Burma’s path to democracy. We urge the regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all those unjustly detained, including other democratically elected officials. Go ahead, Karen.
Jen, is the president going to attend Bob Dole’s funeral this week? And if he does, will he be giving a eulogy for his friend?
Jen Psaki: (35:53)
Sure. I certainly understand the question. I’m just going to leave it to them to finalize and announce any details of the funeral for Former Senator Dole. As you saw in the president’s comments yesterday, obviously he’s somebody he considered a friend, somebody he respected, somebody even when he disagreed, he felt was a lion of a leader in his time in public office.
And on Russia, one quick one.
Jen Psaki: (36:17)
Did Russia urging people to not have high expectations going into this call tomorrow between the presidents, is that The White House message too?
Jen Psaki: (36:25)
I think it is. I mean, our objective here is that this is an opportunity we had been talking about, having a conversation about a range of issues, the president believes in leader to leader diplomacy. And this is an opportunity to convey very clearly and directly where we have serious concerns, including as it relates to Russian’s military activity on the border with Ukraine, and to reaffirm our own support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. It is certainly up to President Putin to make the decisions about what steps he is or is not going to take. April, why don’t we do you as the last one?
Thank you. Back on NPP really fast.
Jen Psaki: (37:01)
Haiti is included in that. What is the update on the investigation that [inaudible 00:37:07] was having on that?
Jen Psaki: (37:09)
The situation [crosstalk 00:37:11].
Jen Psaki: (37:10)
Sure. I know that the Department of Homeland Security has put out comments on that. I don’t have anything new to update you on in terms of the status.
And when it comes to COVID, advocacy groups are very upset that many of those who are coming into this nation are not being vaccinated, and they say it’s a ripple effect. As you talk about getting vaccinated and boosters, what do you say to that?
Jen Psaki: (37:32)
I would say first that for NPP, for individuals who are in Mexico and are coming in for court hearings, they would be offered a vaccine. And also we are still implementing Title 42. Because we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, which means that for people who are trying to regularly enter the country, that would still be applicable.
Jen Psaki: (37:53)
Thank you everyone. We’ll do it again tomorrow, everyone. We got to wrap it up. Thanks, everyone.
Speaker 12: (37:58)