Feb 12, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript February 12: Addresses TJ Ducklo Suspension
February 12, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She addressed the suspension of deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was elected in 2017 after serving as a Miami commissioner for eight years. Sorry, cut off your amount of time served. He is a former chair of the US conference, you’re over hear, of Mayor’s Environment Committee and vice chair of the Miami Dade Transportation Planning Organization. With that, I’m going to turn it over to you. Oh, I think I’m going to turn it over to you, Mayor Suarez. Sorry. And they’ve been kind enough to take a few questions. And as usual, I will be the bad cop when they need to go. Go ahead.
Mayor Francis Suarez: (00:34)
Don’t worry. Every single one of those years were dog years. It was a wonderfully productive meeting in the Oval Office. First, it was an honor to be invited with this select group of mayors and governors. It was incredibly spirited conversation. I felt that it was a very bipartisan conversation. I think the President is very interested in having a bipartisan solution, obviously understanding the needs of the residents of America and certainly the needs of the residents of the city of Miami. I expressed to the President our readiness to increase the ability to vaccinate our population. We would love to have those vaccinations given directly to us as a city.
Mayor Francis Suarez: (01:17)
We also talked about funding, of course. The city of Miami, during the first Cares Act, just barely missed the 500,000 population threshold. And so instead of the city getting approximately $80 million, which would have received and sort of corresponded to our population, we ended up getting $15 million. So we tried to put that money to good use, to the most needy in our community, feeding people, helping them with mortgage assistance, with rental assistance, small business loans and grants. And obviously the people of our city and of America are still hurting. I mean, we need this assistance to get through until the vaccine has gained wide acceptance. So that’s what the conversation was based on. The president was extremely thoughtful, listened to every single one of the elected officials, both governors and mayors from both parties, listened to our comments and concerns. We had a reflective conversation back and forth, and I think he’s going to use our input to make the bill better and to hopefully get it passed for the benefit of the American people. Thank you.
Mike Duggan: (02:34)
Good afternoon. I’m Mike Duggan. I’m the mayor of Detroit, and it was a special experience to sit in the Oval Office with four Republican governors and mayors, four democratic governors and mayors, talking and sometimes debating with the President and the Vice-President, everybody just focused on how to solve the problem. And I really hope this is the way conversations going to go.
Mike Duggan: (03:00)
But the biggest thing that we focused on is the need to pass America’s Rescue Plan. And probably for a lot of folks in this country, the images of Detroit, you remember, were the ones that were portrayed nationally during the bankruptcy. But if you haven’t been to Detroit in the last seven years, there has been enormous progress. We had billions of dollars investment from General Motors, from Ford, from Fiat Chrysler, which is now Stellantis, huge numbers of jobs in the FinTech industry with Quicken. And the tech companies have finally discovered Detroit. We’ve been pleased to see Amazon and LinkedIn and Google move into the city. And across the city, entrepreneurs have pulled down the plywood off of shuttered storefronts, and largely black and brown business owners have started to open up our commercial corridors.
Mike Duggan: (03:54)
We did all this on a bipartisan basis. In Lansing, we’ve had Republicans and Democrats working together to support Detroit’s comeback because Detroit being an economic engine for the state is good for everybody. And so we know that we haven’t gotten to everybody. We’re not kidding ourselves, but here’s what I do know. The unemployment rate in Detroit to start a bankruptcy was 21%, and a year ago it was down to 7%. We had moved 80,000 people from poverty to the middle class, the largest reduction in poverty. It was going the right direction. We certainly had a long way to go to make sure it included everybody. And then when COVID hit, we’re back up to 20% unemployment. And the question is, what do we do about it?
Mike Duggan: (04:43)
And so when we got hit in Michigan and Michigan came right after New York last year being hammered with COVID, we went from having no COVID to our hospitals overrun with patients on gurneys and hallways. We were losing 50 people a day, but we did not in Detroit curl up. We fought back. We quickly set up one of the largest testing centers in the country. We masked up, distanced ourselves. And for the last six months, the city of Detroit has had a lower infection rate than the rest of Michigan and around the surrounding suburbs. Detroiters did what we were supposed to do. And if you go through the city now, you will see people masked up, distancing. The folks in Detroit did what we were supposed to do. And now that the vaccines are out, we have a major center at our convention center where we’re vaccinating 15,000 a week in an indoor parking structure, the convention center. And we’re very anxious as we told the president today to get up to 25,000 a week, because that’s going to be the key.
Mike Duggan: (05:49)
But when we solve the health issues, there will still be other issues facing us. And this is where America’s Rescue Plan makes such a difference. The people who were working in Detroit a year ago, a lot of them right now are unemployed because businesses are shut down, they’re sheltering in their houses. And they are worried that as the landlord tenant courts open up, they may be facing eviction and have no place else to go. They’re looking for help. Those businesses that opened up their storefronts with such optimism are now very afraid if they don’t get help, that plywood’s going back up and we’re going to have boarded commercial districts as we did seven or eight years ago. And in the city of Detroit, we had an immediate $350 million hit to our budget. 1,000 Detroit employees are still on partial layoff, and the problem is going to get worse in the summer.
Mike Duggan: (06:44)
So we have a national problem that needs a national response. And the most interesting thing was, if I thought it was unique, what Mayor Suarez and I heard is every governor and every mayor is talking about exactly the same situation, that it took us seven years to get from 20% unemployment to 7%. Now we’re back at 20. Are we going to get our folks back to work in a matter of months, or is it going to take years? And I think the one message we all had, and we loved the President’s leadership on this, is we don’t kid ourselves about the atmosphere in Washington. We know it’s partisan. But we’re really hoping that for the next couple of months on this national issue, that they can set partisanship aside, and the President made it clear he really wants bi-partisan support for America’s Rescue Plan. And I can tell you that all of us who were in that room, we’re strongly supportive with that. I guess we’ll turn it over to you for questions.
Jen Psaki: (07:44)
Yeah, go ahead [inaudible 00:07:46].
Mayor, I was hoping to get an answer to the criticism we’ve heard from Republicans of late, that states and cities have received several rounds of funding so far that they haven’t spent. So why do they need billions more from the taxpayers now? So what would be your response to that?
Mayor Francis Suarez: (08:03)
Well, my response as a Republican mayor is first of all, for cities like Miami, we actually didn’t get a lot of the money from the first Cares Act. As I said, since we were under 500,000, by the way, almost all cities were under 500,000. I think there’s only 30 something cities that got direct payments. Many of them had very, very bad experiences in terms of receiving the full allotment that they should have received based on their population. It was a big fight down in Miami. So our residents got a fraction of the help that they needed. In terms of the budgetary issues going forward, we just don’t know. It’s uncertain as to what our budget’s going to look like in this year. A lot of the things that affect local governments are lagging indicators. So we won’t know for sure, but certainly we’re going to put the money to good use. And I think we’ve demonstrated that with the funding that we did receive of the first Cares Act. If I can just say a few things in Spanish, is that okay?
Jen Psaki: (08:58)
Mayor Francis Suarez: (09:02)
Yeah. [Spanish 00:09:02] Sorry.
Jen Psaki: (09:02)
Can you talk to us about the variants in Florida, specifically in Miami? Miami has been so open, but we’ve seen more and more cases of the variants. What’s the plan to prevent a surge with the variants popping up?
Mayor Francis Suarez: (10:15)
Well, I’ve been a big proponent of mask in public rule in the city, and there is a pretty broad acceptance of that rule, whether it’s been able to be mandated or not. We have seen a decline, a significant decline, both in cases, in percent positivity, and also in hospitalizations. Our hospitalizations during the summer were at a peak high of 2300. They’re slightly under 1000 at this particular juncture. So we’re hopeful that those measures that we’ve taken and sort of how we’ve inculcated the population to, we’ve hammered home distancing, wearing masks, washing your hands, and those things will continue to drive the numbers down.
Jen Psaki: (10:55)
Jen Psaki: (10:59)
Do you want to say one more?
Mike Duggan: (11:00)
So in Detroit, we have seen the first two cases of the B117, the British variant. And we’ve been just very honest with our residents. The evidence is that the Pfizer Moderna vaccine are effective against it, and we’ve used it to encourage folks. We have a very low infection rate in Detroit right now. So we’re taking it seriously. Now, when the other variants get there, it’s going to be a different issue. But I think it has actually encouraged an increase in vaccine rate.
[inaudible 00:11:27] do you feel like you have enough visibility into exactly how many vaccines you’re getting each week, each month at this point?
Mike Duggan: (11:34)
I have visibility into it. I don’t like the visibility I have. But you have a racial equity issue in this country. And if you just look at the way hospital distribution has worked, even hospitals in urban areas, the folks who have access, the electronic health records that have been predominantly upscale individuals. And so in Detroit, literally we took the convention structure we are just moving thousands of folks through. Jeff Zients was good enough to get us from 5,000 a week to 15,000 a week. I had to appeal directly to him to get to that. We really ought to be at 25,000 a week, and I raised that with the president today. And I think they are doing everything they possibly can. I know they shared numbers with us by April that will look good. We’re certainly hoping before the end of February it picks up. But with what Jeff Zients is doing, I just have complete confidence in this administration.
To follow up on that, one big complaint we heard a lot from states and local jurisdictions under the Trump Administration was that there was a lack of coordination, a lack of communication. Can you point us to specific examples of how that has changed? And also for you, Mayor Suarez, you mentioned that the vaccine needs to be widely accepted, which is different from a supply problem. Did you talk about hesitancy with President Biden?
Mayor Francis Suarez: (12:57)
Well, let me answer the first question, which is I’ve spoken to the President and the Vice-President more times in the short time that they have been in office and previous, prior to them being an office, than I had spoken to the prior administration in the entirety. So to me, it’s an intentional desire on their part to really plug in with mayors. It’s also symptomatic of the fact that now I’m the Vice-President of the Conference of Mayors, next year will be the President of the Conference of Mayors. So certainly that’s a part of it. But I do think that there’s an intentionality on the part of this administration to get advice from the mayors and from the governors, because they are the boots on the ground. And frankly, it’s not just on vaccination. We’ve talked about climate and a variety of other issues.
Mayor Francis Suarez: (13:46)
The second part, for us, it’s not so much acceptance. And maybe if I used the word acceptance, maybe it wasn’t the right word. Whatever vaccine we have, we administer, in other words. We vaccinated about 7,000 people per week at Marlin Stadium in Miami. There’s no one that’s not getting vaccinated. Sure, there are times when there are subpopulations in particular areas where acceptance of the vaccine is an issue, and we try to message that. I think what’s interesting is as the vaccine has taken hold more and more and we started to see some of the cases start to drop, I think people are starting to realize that it works and that there’s a correlation between getting vaccinating and potentially getting back to some sense of normalcy. So that message is certainly resonating.
Can both of you weigh in on whether or not you believe the $15 minimum wage should be included in this relief bill?
Mike Duggan: (14:45)
I certainly support it. The question is I’ve learned more about the rules of reconciliation in last week than I ever wanted to know.
Haven’t we all?
Mike Duggan: (14:54)
So I’m going to defer to the President’s political judgment on that, whether it’s part of the America Rescue Plan that it gets adopted, or whether it’s separate legislation. But I certainly support it.
Do you support the $15 minimum wage being increased in this bill?
Mayor Francis Suarez: (15:10)
Yeah. I’ll echo Mayor Duggan’s statements. The President said something interesting. He said he relies on his policy advisors to give him advice on policy, but he handles the politics. And I think he is an expert in managing the politics of Washington DC, which is foreign to many of us. So I’ll let him handle that part of it.
Did he bring up the $15 minimum wage during your meeting?
Mayor Francis Suarez: (15:37)
It did come up very briefly, but it came up more in the discussion that we’re in the context that we’re discussing now, in terms of understanding how to get a potentially a bipartisan bill passed and understanding that there are tension points in something like that.
Jen Psaki: (15:50)
I’ve been told they have to go. But you’re invited back any time. So thank you for joining us and really appreciate it.
Mayor Francis Suarez: (15:58)
Mike Duggan: (15:58)
Thank you very much.
Thank you. [crosstalk 00:15:59]
Jen Psaki: (16:01)
Thank you. Okay. Happy Friday.
Jen Psaki: (16:02)
Okay, happy Friday. I just have a couple of things for all of you at the top. We had announced This may be two weeks ago, but now it’s almost mid-February, so on Monday as a part of the President’s commitment to expanding healthcare to all Americans, the ACA special enrollment period begins and runs through May 15th. In accordance with the president’s executive order on healthcare, the Department of Health and Human Services is opening this special enrollment period so that all Americans can have access to quality affordable care. During this pandemic and after four years of a tax on the ACA, this enrollment period is more important than ever. A $50 million education campaign will also launch on Monday, including broadcast radio and digital advertising. This campaign out of HHS, I should say, this campaign will focus most on increasing awareness among the uninsured that there is a special enrollment period. That’s always been part of the challenge, making sure people understood how they can do it, and when they can do it, available now, and raise awareness about affordable options for coverage and the availability of assistance to pay for premiums.
Jen Psaki: (17:10)
On Monday, consumers who want to enroll in coverage can visit healthcare.gov to view 2021 plans and prices and enroll in a plan that best meets their needs. I wanted to also highlight some news coming out of the department of Homeland Security this morning. That’s another step in the administration’s process to reform our nation’s immigration system. Beginning on February 19th, the Department of Homeland Security will take steps to begin processing individuals who under the previous administration had been forced to remain in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocol. I will note this news should not be interpreted as an opening for people to migrate irregularly to the United States. Only eligible individuals will be allowed to enter through designated ports of entry at designated times. Through a whole of government approach, DHS, the State Department and Justice Department will collaborate with international partners to safely process under the strictest COVID-19 parameters, eligible individuals to pursue their cases in the United States. Again, this begins on February 19th.
Jen Psaki: (18:14)
Finally, in our venture to get you all a week ahead, as detailed as possible, next week, the President will continue his engagement with both parties and with people across the country about the need to pass the American Rescue Plan and get relief to working families and more vaccines into arms faster. He will also continue his outreach to our allies around the world as he restores American leadership and advances our foreign policy for the middle class. On Tuesday, he will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he will participate in a CNN town hall and take questions from Americans about the issues they are facing every day, including the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis.
Jen Psaki: (18:50)
Later in the week, the president will convene meetings at the White House about the critical need to pass the American Rescue Plan to support workers and struggling communities. I expect we’ll have some more details on those over the coming days. As I announced yesterday, at the end of next week, the President will deliver remarks at a virtual event hosted by the Munich Security Conference. He will speak on the importance of our transatlantic ties and the need for the United States and Europe to take on global challenges together. With that, Zeke, kick us off.
Thanks, Jen. The governor of Montana announced that he was lifting the state’s mask mandate saying enough vulnerable individuals had already been vaccinated. Has the President had any direct outreach to governors [inaudible 00:19:32] were there others about mask wearing and mask mandates and why not, if he has not?
Jen Psaki: (19:40)
I don’t have any calls specifically with the governor of Montana readout so I can check and see if he’s engaged with him directly. The President has been very clear about the impact of wearing masks. He’s obviously put in place a federal mandate as you’ve referenced, that will ensure that they need to be worn on planes, in certain public places as well, because it could save 50,000 lives. He is open to engaging with Democrats and Republicans, as you all know, governors, mayors, as he did just today about any issues they have, but I don’t have anything to read out on a conversation with the mayor, governor of Montana, I should say.
If you’re a citizen of Montana right now, your governor says you don’t need to wear a mask. The President says, wear a mask. What should they do?
Jen Psaki: (20:19)
Well, the President’s guidelines are based on, they’re not even the President’s guidelines, I should say. They’re guidelines that are driven by health and medical experts, by the CDC, by doctors and medical professionals who are trying to give clear guidance from the United States federal government on how people can be safe in this difficult time. We’d certainly encourage people to follow federal guidelines, but again, the President knows this is no easy time and he is more than happy to engage with mayors and governors who even those who disagree with him, as evidenced by the fact that he had a meeting today in the Oval Office,
In that meeting, he had Governor Cuomo with him. Governor Cuomo’s in hot water at home for withholding information statistics about nursing home fatalities in the early days of the COVID pandemic. The President yesterday talked about the importance of having a clear, open, transparent communications with the public. Does the President have confidence in Governor Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic and did they discuss this today?
Jen Psaki: (21:21)
Well, the President hosted Governor Cuomo and a bipartisan group of governors and mayors to the White House today to get their perspective from the front lines, not to give anyone a stamp of approval or to seek their stamp of approval, and to discuss the urgency of passing the American Rescue Plan. He’s committed to partnering with governors and mayors. Governor Cuomo is of course the governor of one of the largest States in the country. One of the places where the pandemic hit hardest, the earliest, where there’s still many Americans who are continuing to struggle to get vaccinated, to make ends meet. It was important to have him as a part of the meeting.
I just got one last one. NSC suggested that the administration starting the review of Guantanamo Bay, the prison there, that was a promise back in 2008, 2009 of the Obama-Biden administration that was never fulfilled. Will Guantanamo Bay Be closed by the time President Biden leaves office?
Jen Psaki: (22:19)
Well, that certainly is our goal and our intention, and we are three weeks in. I realized at a certain point, I can’t say that anymore, but we are still just three and a half weeks in. We are undertaking an NSC process, which is how it should work, to work with the inter-agency, I should say, to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration. I would note that in order to see this process through completely and thoroughly, there are a number of key policy roles that still need to be filled within the inter-agency, including sub-cabinet policy roles, at Defense State and the Justice Department, because there are many players from different agencies who need to be a part of this policy discussion about the steps forward. There will be a robust inter-agency process, but certainly having those individuals in place will help move it forward. Go ahead, Steve.
The meeting today with airline executives, did they reach any conclusion as to whether all air passengers should be tested for COVID before flying?
Jen Psaki: (23:16)
Well, that would be done through a policy process internally, but as I conveyed yesterday, reports that there is an intention to put in place new requirements, such as testing are not accurate.
Did they discuss another bailout for airline industry?
Jen Psaki: (23:36)
I don’t have more of a readout of the engagement with the airline CEOs. I’m not sure we’re going to have one from here. I’d certainly send you to any of them to see what they raised or what they wanted to talk about in the meeting. It was a brief meeting, I should say, it wasn’t that lengthy. Go ahead. Go ahead, Josh.
Can I ask also about another meeting that happened with Secretary Yellen. He spoke with your G7 counterparts. Bit of a thorny issue came up with a file in the previous administration over the taxation of digital companies. Many of course, are American. France has tried to apply a tax, and the big question right now is how and if you tax that? Does the administration have a position on this? I expect Secretary Yellen will brief the President on the call this afternoon. What is your position on other countries or the global sort of large taxing digital giants?
Jen Psaki: (24:23)
Sure. Just to catch some others up, so Secretary Yellen spoke this morning with G7 finance ministers. I think that was the conversation you were referring to and he’ll meet with her. The President we’ll see her later today. The President believes that the largest corporation should pay their fair share in taxes. That’s something of course, he talked about on the campaign trail. That’s why when he was running for office, he called for a strong minimum tax. That would mean that companies could no longer get away with shifting profits and jobs overseas in order to pay rock bottom tax rates. He also recognizes this is a global problem and requires a global solution. He wants to work on a multilateral basis to achieve reform that will strengthen the US economy and benefit US workers. It’s something obviously, he remains committed to, but in terms of the next steps forward, obviously that will include a policy process internally, but also working with counterparts around the world.
What would that mean though if other countries seek to impose these levies that would affect American companies? President Trump had threatened retaliatory tariffs for instance, on France. Does Biden have a view, President Biden, excuse me, have a view on that, about whether he would retaliate if other countries went down this road unilaterally?
Jen Psaki: (25:34)
Well, again, that’s why I was referring to it as a kind of global problem, right? It’s not just a problem here in the United States of us just adjusting our own policy, right? It’s something that there needs to be agreement internationally and obviously, a conversation among the G7 finance ministers. I’ll defer to Treasury to read that out, but it’s certainly an appropriate forum to have a range of these discussions, but I don’t have any new policy proposals to read out for you only to convey to you the President’s committed to this. He wants to work obviously, through an inter-agency process here with key members of his economic team, but also through consultation with global partners around the world.
Just on the mask issue, we’ve asked of course, as you know, many times both this discussion of whether to ship masks to Americans. Pull back the curtain a little bit on what the downside would be there, is it just they’re widely available? Could it actually discourage folks from wearing a mask if the federal government plunks them in their lap? Why not do that, I guess is the other way of asking that question?
Jen Psaki: (26:34)
Well, I think it is an option under consideration as we’ve talked about a little bit in here. I think there are some underlying questions about how you target the masks, where they go to first. Obviously, it couldn’t happen immediately. There hasn’t been a final policy decision to actually ship the masks, but those are some of the pieces that are being discussed. Obviously, there’s a cost to everything as you all know, and so that’s certainly is a consideration, but you’re right. Ensuring that the American people know that wearing masks, even when you’re vaccinated, right, is going to be an important part of keeping people safe, keeping your neighbors safe, keeping communities and workplaces safe. We’re looking at a range of options for how we can convey that.
Jen Psaki: (27:17)
Speaker 1: (27:18)
I want to ask about the schools, but quickly it’s Friday afternoon, the Senate trial has been the bulk of all of our coverage this last week, but I was struck by one quote from the Lead House Manager, Jamie Raskin, who said, he thought this was a moment of truth for America. Friday afternoon, what do you think Americans should have learned from this week with the impeachment trial?
Jen Psaki: (27:39)
Well, we talked about this a little bit yesterday, but certainly for any Americans watching, they learned about the power of some individuals in the House they may not have known before. They certainly saw some powerful footage. That was a reminder of the shocking events that happened on January 6th. I think they saw, as the President has said, that that day was an assault on our democracy, and it was a reminder of why it can never happen again. I think otherwise, you’d have to speak to many Americans about what they concluded and what they digested from the events of this week.
Speaker 1: (28:18)
Okay, and we’re expecting right now, we’re getting those CDC guidelines for schools. We’re expecting that it’ll include the recommendation that if a school wants to stay open five days a week, there’s really regular testing. When do we think that that’ll be available for teachers and students? Is that part of the goal for the first hundred days to have regular testing available to all schools?
Jen Psaki: (28:36)
Well, again, I am eager to see them as a parent. I have not seen them or reviewed the guidelines that will be released. I think there’s a briefing from the CDC a little bit later this afternoon. That’s an excellent question, and I certainly encourage you to ask it.
Speaker 1: (28:51)
What are your criteria, the White House’s criteria for what counts as a school being open?
Jen Psaki: (28:57)
The President’s goal is to have schools open five days a week, kids in school learning, teachers in school and to do it safely. The CDC guidelines that will be released this afternoon, I’m eager to learn more about them as well. Those will be an important next step, and then his Secretary of Education, future Secretary, I should say, Miguel Cardona, this’ll be his top priority as he has said. The President will, of course, task him with looking for ways to work with our health experts in the CDC to open schools safely, as quickly as possible.
Speaker 1: (29:29)
Yeah, I guess I just mean like, as you’re ramping up now, that’s the ultimate goal, but as you’re ramping up right now, what counts as a school being open as you’re trying to get into 1005? That doesn’t count as open unless it’s all kids offered a seat every day?
Jen Psaki: (29:44)
Again, I think that what the President’s focused on and what he’s very mindful of having raised many children, many that makes it sound like he has 10, several children himself, being a very engaged and active grandparent himself, being the husband of a teacher who knows how valuable it is to be in person, is to return how schools were before the pandemic. We are also going to be guided by science. We are going to be guided by our medical experts. We are going to be guided by the guidelines of the CDC. You’ll know more about that as will we later this afternoon. That will be an important next step in the process. Go ahead. We’ll cut. We’re not in a rush here, so go ahead. GO ahead.
Speaker 2: (30:23)
Thanks Jen. First to follow up on schools, the guidance coming out is for K through 12 schools, but when you talk about the White House’s goal to reopen the majority of schools, it’s K through eight, from what I understand. What is your goal for high schools to reopen in the next 100 days?
Jen Psaki: (30:42)
I’m not going to set a new goal today. What I will convey to you is that when Secretary Cardona is confirmed, this will be his top priority and we will leave it to him and his team at the Department of Education, working in close partnership with the CDC and others to determine how quickly and efficiently it can be done.
Speaker 2: (31:05)
Is there a reason that the White House’s goal for schools doesn’t include high schools?
Jen Psaki: (31:09)
I will defer. I would suggest you ask the CDC about whether there are differences between the schools. I’m sure that’s a question that might come up, but we’ll see. Hopefully you’ll get a question, if that’s the one you want to ask.
Speaker 2: (31:19)
Okay. Thank you. Then on impeachment, this morning, President Biden said he was anxious to see what his Republican friends would do, and if they stand up. Was he signaling for them to vote to convict Mr. Trump? If not, what else did he mean by stand up?
Jen Psaki: (31:37)
Well, as you know, the President was in the Senate for 36 years and he watched, as many Americans did, as the very institution he defended for decades was under assault on January 6th, and this week he watched new videos. We all did. That was a reminder of how shocking that assault on our democracy was. We talked with him about this this morning and he was, just for everyone’s context, he was out having his morning coffee, just looking at the …
Jen Psaki: (32:03)
… one’s context. He was out having his morning coffee, just looking at the new hearts on the front lawn when he was asked this question, which of course you all have every right to ask him. But he means that the Senate should take their responsibility seriously in how they view and pay attention to the trial this week. And he was watching the trial, bits of it I should say, like everyone else. Not much because we keep him busy, but that’s what he was conveying.
Speaker 3: (32:26)
How can they stand up in the president’s eyes?
Jen Psaki: (32:30)
They can take the role they have. They can take their responsibility seriously. They are all jurors there. He said a number of times that, of course, the Senate will make the decision. The jurors in the Senate will make the decision. There has been several days of compelling testimony, but he has been very clear and he would have been this morning too, but that wasn’t a part of the conversation that his role is to be president, he’s no longer in the Senate. They are the ones who will vote. He also conveyed during the conversation this morning that he is not making any calls or asking anyone to vote a certain way. But, he was just certainly conveying that, like many Americans, he’s watching. Go ahead in the back.
Speaker 4: (33:14)
I appreciate that you haven’t seen the guidelines from the CDC, but is the White House working in consultation or White House officials with the CDC to sort of make sure that these guidelines are done correctly, they’re easy to understand, easy to implement and consistent with the president’s goals?
Jen Psaki: (33:31)
Well, as we’ve said, we want to be led by health and medical experts. As of this morning, no one on our senior staff call had seen the CDC guidelines. They are theirs to determine and to release. They’re of course… The president receives regular updates as does our senior team as does our COVID coordinator about the status of work and progress. But these guidelines are their guidelines. They’re based on the health and medical experts working at the CDC and certainly under the leadership of Dr. Walensky.
Speaker 3: (34:02)
So there’s been no sort of consultation? Because there’s a big question of the previous administration, whether or not the CDC was just doing the White House’s bidding. I guess what I’m offering you is an opportunity to say there’s been absolutely no discussion, it’s totally independent and these guidelines were organic within the CDC.
Jen Psaki: (34:18)
I can assure you, and you can ask them the same question that if none of us had seen the CDC guidelines this morning, that would be a strange way of coordinating. But there are updates provided, of course, by members of the health team, including the CDC on the status of their work and the issues they’re looking into and how they’re planning to address a range of the challenges as it relates to the pandemic and COVID-19.
Speaker 3: (34:44)
[inaudible 00:34:44] is there a firewall? Is there a firewall between the White House and the CDC in terms of direction that the White House may want to give the CDC?
Jen Psaki: (34:54)
I can assure you the White House is not directing the CDC on how they’re to determine their guideline. And we did not give a approval for their guidelines that will be released later today. They’re CDC guidelines. Go ahead, Caitlin.
Thanks, Jen. I have a few questions for you. One, yesterday President Biden was confirming that they have actually signed the contracts for those additional doses of vaccine. He says they’ll have enough for 300 million Americans, all Americans virtually by July, but that doesn’t mean every American will actually have gotten it by then. So what is that timeline for when all 300 million of those doses will actually have been administered?
Jen Psaki: (35:32)
Well, what the president was referring to and what Dr. Fauci and others have referred to is our awareness that a vaccine is not the same as a vaccination. As we know, and you all have reported on, there are high percentages of vaccine hesitancy in certain communities across the country. We have our eyes wide open about the challenge of addressing that and ensuring that as we get to the point of… We’re focused now on reaching these communities. But it doesn’t mean that just because we have the vaccines, everybody will be vaccinated. So I can’t give you a prediction of when everybody will be vaccinated. It really depends on how effective the effort is. Not just from here, but locally and in partnership with local public health officials and through the massive public campaign we’re going to run is on ensuring we are making sure the American people know it’s safe, it’s effective and where they can get their vaccine.
And to follow up on the CDC guidance, it says that vaccines are not a prerequisite for teachers. The guidance that just came out. So does the White House agree, teachers do not have to be vaccinated for schools to reopen and to go back to schools?
Jen Psaki: (36:36)
I have not reviewed any of it. As I noted, I’m learning it as we talk here. But again, the CDC guidelines are going to be the guide through which we work with our policy teams led by the Department of Education and our health experts to reopen schools. That’s what we’ve long said. And so we trust the scientists and certainly trust the guidelines.
So you do concur with the CDC guide?
Jen Psaki: (36:59)
I have not reviewed them yet, nor has our team. So give us a moment to do that. But again, we trust the science. We trust the scientists. We trust Dr. Walensky and the team leading the CDC. We’ve long said that. We haven’t reviewed them yet so it’s hard for me to do this in a piecemeal way, but we certainly believe they will be an important step to moving the process forward.
Okay. And one more question, a deputy of yours has been suspended for a week without pay for comments he made to a female reporter bullying her after she reached out for requests for comment on a story. Whose idea was the one week suspension instead of a potential resignation or firing? And how can you keep this person in a public facing press relations role, dealing with female reporters when he made such sexist comments to this female reporter reaching out for a request for comments?
Jen Psaki: (37:52)
Well, let me first say obviously, Caitlin, that I take this very seriously. I’m a woman, obviously, but I’ve been in this town working in press and communications for nearly 20 years, almost 20 years. And I think many of you know me and I’ve worked with me closely and many of many people in this building, including the president who take these allegations quite seriously. T.J. Ducklo, who is the deputy who you’re asking, about has apologized to the reporter quite shortly after the comments were made. He had a heated conversation about a story related to his personal life. I’m not saying that’s acceptable, but I just want to be clear that it was not about an issue related to the White House or a White House policy or anything along those lines.
Jen Psaki: (38:39)
He’s the first to acknowledge this is not the standard of behavior set out by the president, nor is that the standard of behavior set by me. And I’m his direct supervisor. In addition to his initial apology, he sent the reporter a personal note expressing his profound regret. The ask, he has been placed as you noted on a one week suspension without pay. That is a significant step. I’m not aware of a history of that step being taken. You all can check me on that. And in addition, when he returns, he will no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at POLITICO. We don’t want, no one wants anyone to feel uncomfortable, to be put in an uncomfortable position. And that’s not behavior that we will tolerate. So those were the steps that were taken and we felt it was a serious punishment.
But he’ll still be working with female reporters. And it wasn’t just a hostile conversation, I think we’ve all probably have plenty of those and vice versa. Those happen. But the language that he is alleged to have used according to this report is arguably or even not arguably, sexist. So what are you doing to deal with that part of it?
Jen Psaki: (39:45)
It’s completely unacceptable. He knows that. We’ve had conversations with him about that. That is why we have also contacted, not long before today, but immediately following their conversation. My colleague, Kate Bedingfield’s reached out to an editor at Playbook to convey our apology. We’ve reached out at every level there to convey our apology and been clear this will never happen again. And it is not going to be tolerated here at the White House.
Sorry, can I just follow up on this?
Jen Psaki: (40:13)
Go ahead. Go ahead, Josh.
Not to belabor the point, but the president of inauguration day spoke to people that he was, I guess, swearing in his staff. And he said, “I promise I will fire you on the spot, on the spot, no ifs, ands, or buts if they speak down to or disrespect their colleagues.” Now, it’s a not colleague being questioned here, but isn’t this sort of well short of what he pledged on inauguration day?
Jen Psaki: (40:39)
As I’ve said, Josh, it doesn’t meet our standard. It doesn’t meet the president’s standard. And it was important that we took a step to make that clear. And that included not just an apology directly from him and apologies directly us at the highest levels there, but also a step to suspend him for one week without pay. And that, in our view, was an important step to send the message that we don’t find it acceptable.
Speaker 5: (41:07)
Jen, was the president involved in this discussion at all?
Jen Psaki: (41:11)
No, I have not discussed it with the president. It was a decision I made and with the approval of the chief of staff.
Speaker 6: (41:17)
Jen, if you knew about this conversation for weeks, why wasn’t T.J. Suspended until after the article dropped? He was here up until last night.
Jen Psaki: (41:27)
You’re right. There were conversations that occurred with the reporter as well as editors at POLITICO immediately after the conversation occurred. That was how we engaged in a private manner. And that was what we felt was appropriate at the time. Go ahead, Anne.
A couple questions on ambassadorships. Can you say when you expect the president to begin naming political ambassadors? And I don’t think, as a candidate, he said the same thing that Elizabeth Warren said about barring big donors from those plum ambassadorships. Do you expect him to name donors, friends, basically people with whom he has a personal or donor relationship to any of those jobs?
Jen Psaki: (42:18)
Well, I will say that there has not been a conversation with the president at this point about who he would like to name for any ambassadorship roles. That may be tough news to hear for people who are interested in ambassadorship roles. But he has not had a conversation about that nor has there been a memo presented to him to make decisions. So, he, of course, is somebody who has worked for some time and values experience and values, as you know, foreign policy experience. And I’m sure that will be reflected in some roles, but I don’t have any kind of qualifications to outline for you from here.
How about a timeline when we might begin to see some of those names come forward?
Jen Psaki: (42:57)
I don’t have a predicted timeline. I will note that under the Obama administration, it was around March. I’m not sure we will, or won’t meet that timeline, but we’re not behind is kind of my point.
Okay. Separate issue. Is there any update on whether the president has called or plans to call Prime Minister Netanyahu?
Jen Psaki: (43:16)
I don’t have an update. He is looking forward to speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I can assure you that will be soon, but I don’t have a specific time or date for when that will occur.
As I’m sure you know, there’s a narrative in Israel that this is an intentional dis, is it?
Jen Psaki: (43:32)
It is not an intentional dis. Prime minister Netanyahu is someone the president has known for some time. Obviously, we have a long and important relationship with Israel and the president has known him and has been working on a range of issues that there’s a mutual commitment to for some time. It is just a reflection of the fact that we’ve been here for three and a half weeks. He’s not called every single global leader yet and he is eager to do that in the weeks ahead.
But he has called every other major ally in Europe and in Asia.
Jen Psaki: (44:03)
He’s called many of them, that is true. Some would argue they haven’t received calls yet, and they are still eager to receive them. But I can assure you, he will be speaking with the prime minister soon and he’s looking forward to doing that. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (44:16)
Just to follow up on Anne, are you talking about days or weeks as the timeframe of the president speaking with Netanyahu?
Jen Psaki: (44:23)
I don’t have an exact timeline to give you other than he’s looking forward to having the conversation. They’ve known each other for some time. There are certainly areas of mutual interest. And as soon as he makes that call, we will let you all know.
Speaker 7: (44:38)
Can you give us further details about the conversation that national security advisor Jake Sullivan had with his Israeli counterpart, I believe, to discuss Iran yesterday?
Jen Psaki: (44:47)
I don’t have additional details on that. I’m happy to talk to Jake and see if there’s more we can read out for all of you.
Speaker 7: (44:52)
That’d be really great. And still on the issue of the Middle East, I mean, I know that you’re saying that things are still under review, including policies like the Abraham Accords, but can you please just give a broad sense of what the administration is trying to achieve in the middle East? For example, does the administration still consider the Saudis and the Israelis important allies?
Jen Psaki: (45:12)
Well, again, I think there are ongoing processes and internal inter-agency processes. One that we, I think, confirmed, an inter-agency meeting just last week to discuss a range of issues in the Middle East. We’ve only been here three and a half weeks. And I think I’m going to let those policy processes see themselves through before we give kind of a complete lay down of what our national security approaches will be to a range of issues.
Speaker 7: (45:36)
Just to follow up on another issue, I have two more questions actually-
Jen Psaki: (45:41)
Go ahead. It’s okay. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (45:42)
So the sister of the Saudi activists, Loujain al-Hathloul, said that President Biden’s victory helped secure her sister’s release. Did the administration have any role in securing her release?
Jen Psaki: (45:54)
Well, we certainly thought it was a very positive step and one that national security advisor, Jake Sullivan spoke to on Twitter. I hate for that to be the reference, but that is where he put out a comment on it. I don’t have any more specific details to read out for you. But when I follow up with him on your other question, I’m happy to ask him about that.
Speaker 7: (46:11)
Just one more. Can you make a comment or give a response on China’s banning of the BBC World?
Jen Psaki: (46:17)
Certainly our view is that the freedom of speech, the freedom of media is something that should be prevalent around the world. And it’s something that we aim to project from here and we raise at every opportunity with our counterparts around the world as well. Go ahead in the back.
Speaker 8: (46:33)
Jen, a report has emerged Russia has this week arrested and detained two gay men and forcibly returned them to Chechnya where they were escaping persecution. Will the president, consistent with his bringing up the SolarWinds hacks, the election interference, bounties on US troops, confront Vladimir Putin on anti LGBTQ human rights abuses?
Jen Psaki: (46:58)
Well, the president is not afraid to make clear to President Putin areas where he has disagreement, areas where he has concern. I would suspect that because he spoke with President Putin a week or two ago that the next contacts with the Russians would be at a lower level either at the state department or other officials. So I’d point you to them for a more up-to-date response on our engagement there, on that particular issue.
Speaker 8: (47:22)
What about sanctions? Would that be on the table for anti LGBTQ abuses in Russia or elsewhere?
Jen Psaki: (47:27)
There’s a review that’s ongoing about a range of problematic actions that have been taken by the Russians. And I’m not going to get ahead of that process. Go ahead… Oh, sorry. I will get to everybody. But why don’t you go here in the front so I just don’t lose track. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (47:41)
The president has been especially quiet on Iran since taking office. Time is running up-
Jen Psaki: (47:46)
He answered a question last Sunday about it.
Speaker 9: (47:48)
Jen Psaki: (47:49)
It’s been a long week.
Speaker 9: (47:49)
That was one question, one short answer, but he didn’t talk much about his strategy and time is running out for nuclear diplomacy. European allies are voicing their concern. When can we expect to hear from the president about his strategy towards Iran beyond just asking for compliance?
Speaker 9: (48:02)
… strategy towards Iran, beyond just asking for compliance.
Jen Psaki: (48:04)
Well, I think a primary step here, as the president noted is if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same and then use that as a platform to build a longer and stronger agreement and also address areas of concern. This is also a topic that is discussed in his conversations with key European partners and allies as well, given their important role in the P5+1. That would be the negotiating body, of course, if we were to move to this step again, but the ball is in their court and he has spoken to that. I’m not sure there’s a lot to add at this moment in time.
Jen Psaki: (48:39)
Okay, go ahead, in the back.
Speaker 10: (48:41)
I just want to bring you back to the president’s speech at the State Department last week.
Jen Psaki: (48:44)
Speaker 10: (48:45)
He talked about a summit of democracy early in his administration, to defend democracy globally. When will this happen? What does early mean, and what form would it take? How do you defend democracy?
Jen Psaki: (49:02)
What form will the summit take?
Speaker 10: (49:04)
Yes. What form the summit would take, but how would you do this? Yes. First, what form the summit will take, and how do you defend democracy otherwise than sending the message that you want to defend democracy?
Jen Psaki: (49:16)
Well, if it’s anytime soon, I suspect it will be a remote summit, but I don’t have a date for you or a format of what that summit will look like. Certainly understand your interest, but we don’t have any more specifics at this point in time.
Speaker 10: (49:28)
The other topic, when you talk, it’s a bit of a follow-up about global posture review led by Secretary Austin. So that the military footprint will be aligned with the foreign policy, does the president want to bring back the troops? As simple as that, does he want to bring back the troops?
Jen Psaki: (49:52)
Are you referring to in Afghanistan or where?
Speaker 10: (49:54)
Jen Psaki: (49:54)
In the world?
Speaker 10: (49:55)
Yes. In the world. Does he want to bring back the troops? Like the previous administration kept insisting, President Trump kept insisting on, “I want to bring back the troops.” Does President Biden want to do the same?
Jen Psaki: (50:07)
Look, I think the president looks at our engagement in the world through each circumstance, and certainly there are troops serving around the world in different capacities. He spoke about his commitment as it relates to Afghanistan on the campaign trail. But I don’t think it would be responsible to give you a sweeping point on that particular question. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (50:32)
Senator Kyrsten Sinema came out and said she opposes passing a $15 minimum wage reconciliation, so that about shuts the door on that route. And it doesn’t seem to be anywhere near enough Republican support to pass it through the normal legislative route. So is there any path forward on raising the minimum wage? What is it, or is this something that the White House has to abandon as an idea?
Jen Psaki: (50:53)
Well, it was, of course in the president’s original proposed package, because he is committed to and believes it’s important to raise the minimum wage. This is the messy, legislative, ongoing process working its way through. As you know, Speaker Pelosi has been clear, it will be in the House bill. The next stage after it works its way through the House, is that it goes through a Senate process where the views of senators like Kyrsten Sinema will certainly be prominent and considered. There’s also a parliamentary process that has to consider whether the minimum wage can be a part of the bill. So I would say we’re kind of smack in the middle of sausage-making of legislating. We’ll see where it ends up on the other side, but the president remains committed to raising the minimum wage, and he will continue to advocate that at every opportunity.
Speaker 11: (51:47)
Right now in the Senate, of course, there is the impeachment trial of former President Trump, that will be wrapping up. It looks overwhelmingly likely that he will be acquitted. And Speaker Pelosi has thrown out the idea of a 9/11 commission-type inquiry into what happened on the 6th, how these people were able to breach the Capitol. Is that something that President Biden would support, or enact himself, or is this after the impeachment trial, the time to move on and heal a divided nature, et cetera, et cetera?
Jen Psaki: (52:14)
Well, heal a divided nation, et cetera, et cetera. I’m not making fun of you. It’s a Friday afternoon. That is up to Congress to determine if they want to put together a commission to look at the events of January 6th. Obviously, there are ongoing investigations out of the federal government and the Department of Justice and the FBI, which we certainly support, but we will leave it to Congress to determine if that’s a step forward. If that’s a next step, I should say.
Speaker 11: (52:43)
I have a border wall question that a colleague sent in.
Jen Psaki: (52:48)
Speaker 11: (52:48)
President Trump somewhat famously invoked his emergency powers to repurpose billions of dollars for the construction. There’s about, I believe $500 million outstanding now, that has been committed to construction companies and the like, but it’s not actually been spent. And I’m wondering if this is something that the administration is attempting to claw back, something that is possible to claw back without spending on further border construction.
Jen Psaki: (53:07)
That’s a very good and specific question. I’m going to try to answer it, but I will follow up with you if this doesn’t answer it. There was a formal followup issued in the form of a letter from the president’s executive order that he issued on day one on the administration, when he announced he would halt the emergency declaration. So as he said all along, the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted. He took formal steps to follow up on his executive order to end the declaration so that no more American tax dollars could be wasted on a border wall that does nothing to address or reform issues in our immigration system. So it’s halted now. I think you’re asking though about if there’s money in… Or tell me more about your question.
Speaker 11: (53:51)
It’s money that’s been committed, but not yet actually spent, and whether those, I guess, contracts could be canceled and recouped?
Jen Psaki: (53:57)
I suspect that’s going to be a specific question for the Department of Homeland Security to answer, but let us see if there’s a specific answer we can get for you on that pot of money.
Speaker 11: (54:06)
This will be my last one.
Jen Psaki: (54:06)
Speaker 11: (54:07)
I just want to throw one out for the Canadians, the purchase of more vaccine from European suppliers. We’re in this global race for supply, and this was from a Canadian reporter, [inaudible 00:54:19] and Canada’s struggling to procure vaccine because they have no domestic capacity. The US does, and I’m wondering whether President Biden has faced any pushback from world leaders about essentially hogging the global supply?
Jen Psaki: (54:32)
Well, I think the president has been clear publicly and certainly privately when if the conversation comes up that his focus now is on ensuring that the American people are vaccinated. We’ve obviously rejoined the World Health Organization, we recognize, and the president feels that it is vital and essential to ensure that as many people around the world are vaccinated. That will keep everybody safer. But his first priority is ensuring vaccines are in the arms of Americans, including 100 million shots in the first 100 days.
Jen Psaki: (55:04)
Go ahead in the back.
clear in teh back: (55:04)
Thank you, Jen. Sticking with the vaccines, some states have been reporting that COVID doses are going to waste. Is the White House discussing a plan or even a proposal to mitigate this, and to reduce the amount of discarded doses?
Jen Psaki: (55:16)
Well, certainly those reports are concerning to us. There was a report, I think it was overnight or this morning about… I think if it was wasted masks. Now, I’m kind of speaking out of turn here. What I’m trying to say is when we get reports like these from states or localities, we work to address them as quickly as possible, to ensure that whatever prompted that, whether it’s a delivery issue, a supply issue, is it an issue of not having enough vaccinators, it can differ from state to state. So we work to address those issues as quickly as possible, and certainly, it’s concerning when we hear about doses that are wasted.
Hey, Jen, [inaudible 00:56:04].
Jen Psaki: (56:03)
I’ll pick up on that question about the vaccine distribution. Russia and China has developed homegrown vaccines that they have distributed globally. What steps is the president taking to ensure that the US position on the geopolitical stage is not diminished by its refusal to share some of these vaccines abroad right now?
Jen Psaki: (56:25)
Well, certainly we’ve seen attempts by other countries, China and Russia, to use vaccines as a means of making progress diplomatically. The president is engaged with a range of leaders around the world, conveying how he wants to return the United States to have a central seat on the world stage, and we’re working to do that through a range of actions. But we watch those actions with concern. I can see if there’s more to report from our national security team.
And then separately is… Not separately, but the phone call potential with [inaudible 00:56:57], but is the president willing to even pick up the phone and talk with MBS of Saudi Arabia? Is that even on the table, in the cards, given his involvement in the Khashoggi murder?
Jen Psaki: (57:08)
Well, obviously there’s a review of our policy as it relates to Saudi Arabia. There’s not a call planned that I’m aware of, but I can speak with our team if there’s something more significant than that to report. Go ahead.
Speaker 12: (57:20)
Does he also plan to talk to the Palestinian leadership to more rebalanced that relationship?
Jen Psaki: (57:28)
To get involved in a Middle East peace process, perhaps. I don’t have any calls to predict for you a read out. These are all excellent questions. I’ll see if there’s more we can get from our national security team on planned future calls, which I know there’s a great deal of interest in.
Just to bounce around a little bit on the global response to the pandemic.
Jen Psaki: (57:44)
The IMF is urging the Biden administration to reverse the previous decision to not boost resources to help developing nations, who’ve been of course, battered economically as well as health-wise by the pandemic. Do you have any view on that? Should the IMF be doing more to help nations worldwide who are feeling the financial brunt of this and don’t have the resources of their own, the way the US does?
Jen Psaki: (58:06)
It’s a great question. I just want to talk directly to our international economic team about it, to make sure we get you a very specific answer, I should say. Go ahead.
Speaker 13: (58:15)
Jen Psaki: (58:15)
Speaker 13: (58:15)
… following the announcement yesterday. Why don’t we have an update on how much of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine we’ll get out the gate, because I know an EUA is likely to come at any moment?
Jen Psaki: (58:28)
You mean what a federal order would be of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
Speaker 13: (58:32)
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:58:32].
Jen Psaki: (58:32)
Or if it goes through the full approval?
Speaker 13: (58:35)
Correct. Because we’re in that window of three weeks, so I know previously, the administration wanted to give those figures out to states so they could plan ahead.
Jen Psaki: (58:45)
That is certainly our objective. Remember that we have though enough of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine to vaccinate every American by the summer, so we will continue to be in a position where we’re giving states a heads up of a couple of weeks in order for them to better plan. We’ll wait for the approval process to see itself through before additional announcements are made.
Speaker 13: (59:10)
[crosstalk 00:59:10] My second quick one… Sorry. On vaccines and herd immunity is, the president and you keep saying that the hope is to get shots in arms by the end of the summer, which would put us at normalcy or the hope of herd immunity around seven to eight weeks after that. Is that a realistic timeline that you’re talking about internally?
Jen Psaki: (59:33)
I’m going to let Dr. Fauci and other speak to a timeline for herd immunity. I think we will have enough vaccines to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer. We obviously announced gesture that we moved that capacity up a month earlier, which is certainly a positive development. But again, part of this goes to Caitlin’s question earlier about vaccine hesitancy, and our effectiveness, and our ability to convey to many communities that this is safe, this is effective, this is how they can get their vaccine, and we don’t have an assessment of that yet.
Speaker 14: (01:00:10)
[crosstalk 01:00:10] … opening the border.
Jen Psaki: (01:00:10)
Yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 14: (01:00:12)
You said that in the change of policy announced yesterday, that asylum seekers coming in will be tested.
Jen Psaki: (01:00:16)
Speaker 14: (01:00:18)
Is widespread testing available for customs and border patrol agents, and do you know what percentage of frontline DHS border agents have been vaccinated?
Jen Psaki: (01:00:28)
I’d send you to the Department of Homeland Security for that specific question, who oversees those border patrol agents. Go ahead.
Speaker 15: (01:00:34)
Just to followup on your statement to Zeke, I just want to make sure I understand. You said that the administration is looking with concern at vaccine diplomacy being done by China and Russia. But do you find the idea that there are countries who are able to help developing nations access vaccines, do you look at that with concern as well, or are you separating the actual-
Jen Psaki: (01:00:57)
I’m separating them.
Speaker 15: (01:00:58)
But I mean, how could you separate it? I mean-
Jen Psaki: (01:01:01)
Well, you’re familiar with issues around the global stage. I think what Zeke, or whomever asked the question was asking about, was countries like China or Russia who have at times used aid to bring other countries their way, in a way that controls them, a way that okays unacceptable behavior, whether it’s a violations of human rights or media freedoms, we wouldn’t find that to be acceptable. At the same time, we’ve obviously rejoined the World Health Organization. We believe, as I said earlier, that it’s important and it makes the country safer, the world safer for more people across the world to be vaccinated. So we certainly separate them and that is hence, as you well know, how you have to view global diplomacy. But I think the question was specifically about those countries for a reason. [crosstalk 01:01:52] Thank you, everyone.
Speaker 10: (01:01:53)
From the Japanese [inaudible 01:01:55] Bootleg Review.
Jen Psaki: (01:01:56)
Okay, go ahead.
Speaker 10: (01:01:56)
He’s asking if the White House has a reaction to the resignation of Yoshiro Mori, the head of the Tokyo Olympics committee, who had the sexist comments on the fact that women talk too much in meetings?
Jen Psaki: (01:02:09)
Well, we certainly didn’t approve of those comments. Let me work to get you a more specific reaction from our team. Thanks so much, everyone. [crosstalk 01:02:24].