Jan 25, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript January 25
January 25 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She discussed the reinstatement of coronavirus restrictions for international travelers. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:04)
Good afternoon. Happy Monday to everyone. A couple of announcements at the top. First, as a part of this administration’s accessibility and inclusion efforts starting today we will have an ASL, an American Sign Language, interpreter for our daily press briefings. Today’s interpreter, Heather, is joining us virtually. The President is committed to building an America that is more inclusive more just and more accessible for every American, including Americans with disabilities and their families.
Jen Psaki: (00:35)
Next, I wanted to share a few updates from the COVID Response Team. First, today, the President will sign a Presidential proclamation to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through travel, especially as we see faster spreading variants emerging across the world. This proclamation is part of the Biden administration’s whole of government decisive and science driven response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of particular note, on advice of our administration’s medical and COVID team, President Biden has decided to maintain the restrictions previously in place for the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Brazil. With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variance spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel. And in light of the contagious variant B. 1.351, South Africa has been added to the restricted list.
Jen Psaki: (01:35)
Additionally, beginning tomorrow, international travelers to the United States must provide proof of a negative test within three days of travel to airlines prior to departure. The President is taking these steps on the advice of his COVID-19 and medical team. And we’re already working as a real partner to the States to address their needs to vaccinate the public. This weekend West Virginia asked the Biden administration for assistance at an understaffed vaccine distribution center. At the President’s direction, FEMA was deployed to help support the vaccination site. This comes as part of the President’s order last week that directs FEMA to stand up vaccination centers and support states’ vaccination efforts. We look forward to continuing to be the partner of the states moving forward.
Jen Psaki: (02:20)
Last update on COVID, I wanted to briefly preview the first of our public health briefings, which will begin this Wednesday, and we’ll be done regularly for the foreseeable future. These will be science led briefings featuring our public health officials and members of our COVID-19 Response Team. These briefings will typically happen three times a week to provide the American people with key updates on the virus and our government’s response. They are a reflection of our commitment to being transparent and honest with the public about the pandemic and the work our whole of government team is doing every day. And you all will be able to participate in those of course, as well. Finally, I think finally, this morning President Biden issued an Executive Order setting the policy that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the armed forces of the United States should be able to serve. Today’s action revokes the Presidential Memorandum of March 2013, 2018, and also confirms the revocation of the Presidential Memorandum of August 25th of 2017.
Jen Psaki: (03:25)
Today’s action fulfills another campaign promise. With this EO, no one will be separated or discharged from the military or denied re-enlistments on the basis of gender identity. And for those transgender service members who were discharged or separated because of their gender identity, their cases will be reexamined. President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service and that America’s strength is found in its diversity. America is stronger at home and around the world when it is inclusive.
Jen Psaki: (03:54)
Last thing, sorry, I said it was the last but… A lot going on here. This afternoon, the President will sign an Executive Order that takes an important step to support American manufacturing. With this Buy American Executive Order, the President is already making good on his commitment to building a future that is Made in America by all of America’s workers. Through the Buy American Executive Order, the President will put to work the nearly $600 billion in taxpayer dollars that goes toward federal contracting and support of American manufacturing and good paying jobs for America’s workers.
Jen Psaki: (04:28)
The EO directs agencies to close loopholes in how Made in America products are measured so that we can close loopholes and increase the amount of a product that must be made in the US for it to qualify under Buy American law. He will also appoint a senior white house official to oversee this policy to ensure it’s actually enforced and that all agencies are seeking small and medium-sized American businesses to make the products they need. The EO will also tighten and make public the waiver process so that American workers and manufacturers can see how federal dollars are spent and where they’re going. So I will stop there, and John, why don’t you kick us off?
Thank you, Jen. We know you have to leave at 2:00, so we’ll just get started right now. Two topics for you to please, one foreign and one domestic.
Jen Psaki: (05:12)
Overseas first. Over the weekend, there were dozens of significant protests in Russian cities over the arrest of Alexei Navalny, which were put down harshly by police there. What sort of US response is being considered? What sort of actions or sanctions could occur? And when does the President plan to speak to President Putin?
Jen Psaki: (05:29)
First, I’d like to point all of you to a statement that was released this weekend by the state department, strongly condemning the use of harsh tactics against protestors and journalists in cities throughout Russia. These continued efforts to suppress Russians rights to peacefully protest and assemble and their freedom of expression and the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, And the crackdown on protest that followed are troubling indications of further restrictions on Russian civil society.
Jen Psaki: (05:57)
So I’ll just reiterate our call from here on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexei Navalny. We also urge Russia to fully cooperate with the international community’s investigation into the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and credibly explained the use of chemical weapon on its soil.
Jen Psaki: (06:19)
And last week we announced that the President issued a tasking to the intelligence community for its full assessment of a range of activities. Including, of course, the SolarWinds cyber breach, Russian interference in the 2020 election, its use of chemical weapons against Alexei Navalny and the alleged bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan. That is ongoing, that review is a 100 day review. So we’ll have an update on that when it concludes. Actually, I apologize, I may have misstated that. I don’t have a timeline for the timeline of the review, it’s something that’s ongoing, it’s a priority of course.
Has a call been scheduled with President Putin?
Jen Psaki: (06:55)
I don’t have any calls to predict for you at this point, but obviously the President is picking up the phone, engaging with a range of foreign leaders, European and others. There’s more planned in the next couple of days and we’ll have readouts as those occur.
And one here at home, the President has repeatedly stressed the urgency of the COVID relief package, the need to get something done now. With that in mind, and considering the reaction of Republican lawmakers to outreach that was done over the weekend, should there be a more narrow focus on the virus and vaccine that could be done sooner? And while we know that these White House officials have talked to the Hill, can you please speak to the President’s personal involvement? Who has he spoken to?
Jen Psaki: (07:33)
The President has been personally engaging and engaging with Democrats and Republicans. We’re not going to read out all those calls for you because those are private conversations and we feel that’s the most effective way to get this package moving forward. As you know, there was a call that occurred yesterday that we did a brief readout on from that call, part of our ongoing engagement to talk with Democrats and Republicans. And I’ll convey that this is how, in the President’s view and we talked about this this morning, this process should work. He puts his policy forward, his vision forward, and then Democrats and Republicans can engage and give their input and feedback on what they think is going to work and how to move this package forward. So in our view, this is working exactly as it should work.
But in terms of the… Is there a concern Democrats themselves, Senator Sanders as an independent of course, and Speaker Pelosi have suggested that reconciliation should be considered now? That time is wasting, there isn’t time for this sort of legislative back and forth.
Jen Psaki: (08:31)
Well, the President himself has conveyed the urgency of moving this package forward. And that’s certainly something he has also conveyed privately to Democrats and Republicans. And it’s not just him. There’s urgency to the American people for this package to move forward because we are going to hit a cliff, an unemployment cliff… Unemployment insurance cliff, I should say, in March where millions of people won’t be able to have access to unemployment insurance.
Jen Psaki: (08:56)
We’re going to hit a point where we won’t have enough funding for vaccine distribution. Nobody wants to have the conversation, no member of Congress, in May or June, “We don’t have the funding to reopen schools,” I should say. So there’s an urgency he’s conveyed. I will say, as it relates to reconciliation, just to take a step back. Everybody watching is not as in the weeds on the Senate process as all of you. So let me just take a moment to explain.
Jen Psaki: (09:23)
Reconciliation is a means of getting a bill passed. There are a number of means of getting bills passed. That does not mean, regardless of how the bill is passed, that Democrats and Republicans can not both vote for it. So, the President obviously wants to make this bipartisan, hence he’s engaging with members of both parties and he remains committed to that moving forward. Go ahead, Kaitlan.
Kaitlan Collins: (09:45)
Just real quick, you were talking about the cliff in March, does he think it will get passed by March?
Jen Psaki: (09:50)
Well, there’s an urgency to moving it forward and he certainly believes there needs to be progress in the next couple of weeks.
Kaitlan Collins: (09:57)
He thinks by March it could get passed?
Jen Psaki: (09:59)
Well, I want to give it a deadline on it, Kaitlan, but I think we are all mindful and looking at that timeline in March as to when we will hit the unemployment cliff and it’s vital to get things done quickly and rapidly as quickly as well.
Kaitlan Collins: (10:13)
So you said last week, he wants it to be bipartisan. Of course, we’ve already seen the Republicans pushing back on the price tag, the $15 minimum wage and who is qualifying for these stimulus checks. So is he willing to come down on any of that?
Jen Psaki: (10:26)
Well, I’m not going to negotiate from here. Not that you’re expecting me necessarily to do that. But again, the President feels this is working as it should. He proposed his package. He’s getting feedback. We’re having conversations. We don’t expect the final bill to look exactly the same as the first bill he proposed. I will remind you though that the bipartisan package that passed in December had the same thresholds for the checks. $150,000 about, approximately that amount, for families about 75,000 for individuals in terms of who would have access to those checks.
Jen Psaki: (11:02)
And each component of this package is vital to get us through this period of time. So that’s how the President looks at the package, that each of them are essential. Not just vaccine distribution money, but funding to ensure that people can make sure they are putting food on the table, that their kids are eating, that they have the bridge needed to get to the other side of the pandemic.
Kaitlan Collins: (11:25)
Okay. And then just quickly, yesterday, the CDC Director said she could not say how much vaccine there was left to go out. I know it’s complicated, what’s being shipped and distributed and actually injected, but is there at least a ballpark amount that officials are aware of, of how much vaccine there is?
Jen Psaki: (11:41)
Our team is working right now. We’ve been here for five days to evaluate the supply so that we can release the maximum amount while also ensuring that everyone can get the second dose on the FDA recommended schedule. So the confusion around this issue, which we acknowledge that there is some confusion, speaks to a larger problem. Which is, what we’re inheriting from the prior administration, which is much worse than we-
Jen Psaki: (12:03)
… what we’re inheriting from the prior administration, which is much worse than we could have imagined. So, we are assessing now what we have access to, and ensuring that we have more of a rapid engagement with states, so that they have more of a head’s up on what to expect in the weeks ahead.
Kaitlan Collins: (12:17)
Just to button this off, Gus Perna still works here, right? And he’s in charge of the logistics. So, could he say how much vaccine there is, since they’re in charge of where it’s going?
Jen Psaki: (12:26)
Well, again, there is a new CDC director in charge, Hans, who spoke to this, and I think what we’re trying to do now is fully assess what we have access to, what the status of the vaccine supply looks like, and ensure that we’re communicating that accurately and effectively with the public.
Jen Psaki: (12:43)
Speaker 1: (12:43)
Thanks [inaudible 00:12:44]. Acknowledging the confusion around the lack of clarity about the vaccine availability, give us a sense of jut how stunning that revelation is. What was President Biden’s reaction to learning that?
Jen Psaki: (12:58)
Well, I will say having sat in a lot of meetings with President Biden about COVID and his efforts to get the pandemic under control, he asks a lot of detailed questions about the status of supply, the status of distribution, the status of states, when there’s reporting from all of you on states not having the information they need, those are specific issues he raises. We are eyes wide open, all of us, including the president, with the knowledge that we were not walking into a circumstance where there was going to be a concrete assessment or plan presented to us when we walked in, and there wasn’t. That’s why he put forward his 200 page vaccine distribution plan last week, and that’s why he hired an experienced and talented team to get to the bottom of exactly what we’re looking at, so that we can have that assessment moving forward.
Speaker 1: (13:49)
When does the administration expect to have a better sense of the available inventory?
Jen Psaki: (13:53)
Well, as I noted at the top, we’re going to be doing regular briefings, three times a week. We’ll start those on Wednesday. I don’t know what assessment they’ll have by Wednesday, but what our objective is is to be providing clear and accurate information to the public.
Speaker 1: (14:08)
And what’s the White House’s message to democrats, to President Biden’s supporters who take him at his word and say, “As it relates to COVID relief, we are in a national emergency and we should act like it.” And they want action now, they don’t want any sort of delay, and they don’t want to experience the opportunity costs that might come from a delay in waiting for republicans to get on board.
Jen Psaki: (14:27)
You mean with the COVID package?
Speaker 1: (14:29)
The package, yeah.
Jen Psaki: (14:30)
Well, he agrees. He doesn’t want there to be delay either, and I would note that 70% of the public agrees with what you just said, according to the Ipsos poll this weekend. That the components of this package, the funding for vaccine distribution, but also funding to ensure people can apply for unemployment insurance, put food on the table, money to reopen schools, the public supports that, and we anticipate that the public will be conveying to the leaders who were elected to represent them, exactly that. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (15:00)
Can I just ask you to clarify the travel requirement, or the testing requirement. That applies to all people boarding planes into the US, including US citizens? Anyone getting on a plane needs a test.
Jen Psaki: (15:10)
Speaker 2: (15:11)
From overseas into the US.
Jen Psaki: (15:12)
Speaker 2: (15:12)
Regardless of citizenship?
Jen Psaki: (15:12)
Speaker 2: (15:14)
Okay. I also want to ask a couple of things that the Trump administration did in the final stages that I’m wondering whether you folks are going to intervene. One is that they issued a license to an Israeli billionaire named Dan Gertler to allow him to access US financials and that license is in place through end of January 2022. Will the Biden administration intervene at all, or does that stand? Another one is that he began the delisting, or issued an executive order that triggered the delisting of several Chinese companies, in particular the three telecoms that sought a review of that. Do you plan on tweaking or rescinding that order, in other words stopping the delisting process for these three Chinese telecoms?
Jen Psaki: (15:55)
On the first question, fortunately we’re about to have a treasury secretary confirmed, and I’d send you to them to speak to any reviews they may undertake in that sanctions review. And then on the Chinese, I know there was some reporting, perhaps from your outlet of course, this morning, on that particular issue. As we’ve noted in here previously, there are a number of reviews, complex reviews, inter agency reviews, I should say, that we’re going to undertake as it relates to a range of our …
Jen Psaki: (16:31)
Sorry, let me start again here. A range of regulatory actions, and a range of relationships with companies, as it relates to Chinese investment, and other issues as well. Those complex reviews are just starting, and as I noted, they will need to go through the inter agencies. So, the state department, the treasury department, a number of others who will review how we move forward. We’re starting from an approach of patience, as it relates to our relationship with China, so that means we’re going to have consultations with our allies, we’re going to have consultations with democrats and republicans, and we’re going to allow the inter agency process to work its way through to review and assess how we should move forward with our relationship.
Speaker 2: (17:20)
Is it possible that those reviews could lead to a change in this delisting process down the road?
Jen Psaki: (17:20)
Well, I don’t want to get ahead of any review, but certainly we’re taking an overarching look at all of it, and as we have more to report, we’ll report back to you.
Speaker 2: (17:31)
Finally, can I just ask broadly what the president believes President Trump’s legacy is, with regards to China in particular around the tariffs he imposed? Does President Biden like those tariffs? They remain in place on quite a large sum of Chinese goods. Is that under review at all, or are those appropriate at this time?
Jen Psaki: (17:49)
Well, as is the case with other areas of our relationship with China, he will take a multilateral approach to engaging with China, and that includes evaluating the tariffs currently in place, and he wants to ensure that we take any steps in coordination with our allies and partners, and with democrats and republicans in congress as well. So, nothing to report at this point in time, but the president is committed to stopping China’s economic abuses on many fronts, and the most effective way to do that is through working concert with our allies and partners to do exactly that.
Jen Psaki: (18:29)
Speaker 3: (18:30)
I wanted to follow up a little bit on some of the China issues. I know that there was an executive order requiring the sale of TikTok’s US business, and I wondered if there were plans to revoke it or enforce it, or what is the current thinking on that matter?
Jen Psaki: (18:46)
It’s a great question. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with our national security team about it. Happy to take it and see if we can get to you something more specific.
Jen Psaki: (18:52)
Speaker 4: (18:53)
Thank you so much. Two questions for you. The first is stepping back for a minute, at what the administration’s goals are. Unity is something that President Biden spoke about quite a bit on the campaign trail, talking about it during the transition. Could you talk a little bit more specifically about what unity will mean to this administration? Whether there are any benchmarks that you’ve identified to show that unity has been achieved. And just to contrast with the Coronavirus taskforce, of course you’ve got very detailed benchmarks about what you want to achieve moment by moment, but with unity, are you talking about bipartisanship? Are you talking about something that’s widely popular in the United States? Could you go through what Biden’s thinking about when he says that he wants to achieve unity?
Jen Psaki: (19:44)
Sure. Well, the president came in to lead the country, obviously at a time of great division, where there was a great need for healing in his view, and he spoke about that in his inaugural address just last week. So, unity to him means, of course approaching our work on legislative issues through a bipartisan lens, working with democrats and republicans, trying to find a path forward on how we can work together to address the problems the American people are facing. That’s part of it. But it also means projecting that he is going to govern for all people, and address all the issues that the American people are facing.
Jen Psaki: (20:21)
So, for example, that means talking about how the COVID pandemic impacts not just democrats, but republicans, not just blue states, but red states. Ensuring that he is reaching out to democratic and republican governors, democratic and republican mayors, and conveying in every opportunity that he has that this is a problem that we’re all facing together. So, I think it’s a little bit different than how you mark, of course, achieving 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in the first 100 days. But unity is about the country feeling that they’re in it together, and I think we’ll know that when we see it, but he’s going to be working on that and committed to that every opportunity he has to speak to the public.
Speaker 4: (21:02)
Just one other question. The Obama administration initially had wanted to put Harriet Tubman on the 20 dollar bill. The Trump administration dragged their feet on that. I wanted to see if the Biden administration has a view of the timeline on whether or not she should be on the paper currency?
Jen Psaki: (21:24)
I was here when we announced that and it was very exciting, and hasn’t moved forward yet, which we would have been surprised to learn at the time. The treasury department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new 20 dollar notes. It’s important that our notes, or money, if people don’t know what a note is, reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new 20 dollar note would certainly reflect that. So, we’re exploring ways to speed up that effort, but any specifics would of course come from the department of treasury.
Jen Psaki: (21:58)
Speaker 5: (21:59)
Hi, another one on China. China’s Xi Jinping spoke earlier today, I’m wondering if there’s any official White House reaction to his comments? He talked about unity as well, and also talked about cooperation on coronavirus and other issues. Is that kind of statement today likely to change or affect the stance that the US, that the Biden administration has towards China on trade and technology?
Jen Psaki: (22:24)
No. I think our approach to China remains what it has been for the last months, if not longer. We’re in serious competition with China. Strategic competition with China is a defining feature of the 21st century. China’s engaged in conduct that hurts American workers, blunts our technological edge, and threatens our alliances and our influence in international organizations.
Jen Psaki: (22:50)
What we’ve seen over the last few years is that China’s growing more authoritarian at home and more assertive abroad, and Beijing is now challenging our security, prosperity and values in significant ways that require a new US approach. And this is one of the reasons, as we were talking about a little bit earlier, that we want to approach this with some strategic patience, and we want to conduct reviews internally through our inter agency. Even though I stumbled over that. I needed a little more coffee before I came out here, I guess. We wanted to engage more with republicans and democrats in congress to discuss the path forward, and most importantly we want to discuss this with our allies. So, no, the comments don’t change anything. We believe that this moment requires a strategic and a new approach forward.
Jen Psaki: (23:40)
Go ahead. Hopefully I can answer your question this time. I’m sorry, we’ll go to you next.
Speaker 3: (23:44)
I was going to pile a little more on China while we’re on this topic. But I wondered, Huawei’s been on the entity list for like two years now. Just before the Trump administration left office they initiated a new policy to basically revoke and issue intents to deny licenses for even more innocuous items that US companies were selling to Huawei-
Speaker 3: (24:03)
… and more innocuous items that US companies were selling to Huawei. Does the Biden administration plan to keep Huawei on the entity list, and continue to enforce this much more stringent blanket ban on US goods sales to Huawei?
Jen Psaki: (24:14)
Well, technology, as I just noted is of course at the center of the US China competition. China’s been willing to do whatever it takes to gain a technological advantage; stealing intellectual property, engaging in industry espionage, and forcing technology transfer. Our view, the President’s view is we need to play a better defense.
Jen Psaki: (24:35)
Which must include holding China accountable for its unfair and illegal practices and making sure that American technologies aren’t facilitating China’s military buildup. So he’s firmly committed to making sure that Chinese companies can not misappropriate and misuse American data. We need a comprehensive strategy, as I’ve said. And a more systematic approach that actually addresses the full range of these issues.
Jen Psaki: (24:57)
So there is again, an ongoing review of a range of these issues. We want to look at them carefully and we’ll be committed to approaching them through the lens of ensuring we’re protecting us data and America’s technological edge. I don’t have more for you on it. As we do, we’re happy to share that with all of you. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (25:17)
President Biden, now President Biden, condemned protests and violence on the far left and the far right before he was President. Why haven’t we heard anything directly from him about the riots in Portland and the Pacific Northwest since he was inaugurated?
Jen Psaki: (25:32)
Well, he’s taking questions later this afternoon. So perhaps you will. I will say from here that President Biden condemns violence and any violence in the strongest possible terms. Peaceful protests are a cornerstone of our democracy, but smashing windows is not protesting and neither is looting. And actions like these are totally unacceptable. And anyone who committed a crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. Our team is of course, monitoring it very closely.
Speaker 5: (25:59)
And as he pushes for federal help to businesses affected by COVID, should we expect to see any kind of federal assistance for these businesses out there that are affected by COVID and riots?
Jen Psaki: (26:13)
Well, again, I think you know, because we’ve had this conversation in here already a few times since I joined the team that his focus is on getting the American people through this period of time. And pushing forward on a relief package that will get them the assistance they needs as it relates to the pandemic and the impact of the pandemic. So I don’t have anything more for you on that.
Speaker 5: (26:33)
Just one more about the announcement you made off the top about the travel restrictions. When President Trump was imposing travel restrictions in March, specifically on China, then candidate Biden called it xenophobic, and fear-mongering. So now, President Biden is putting travel restrictions on people coming in from other countries. What word do we use to describe that?
Jen Psaki: (26:54)
Well, I don’t think that’s quite a fair articulation. The President has been clear that he felt the Muslim ban was xenophobic. He overturned the Muslim ban. He also though, has supported, and he himself, or we did, I should say, even before he was inaugurated, steps travel restrictions in order to keep the American people safe, to ensure that we are getting the pandemic under control.
Jen Psaki: (27:19)
That’s been part of his policy. But he was critical of the former President for having a policy that was not more comprehensive than travel restrictions. And he conveyed at the time, and more recently, the importance of having a multi-faceted approach; mask wearing, vaccine distribution, funding in order to get 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in the first 100 days, not just travel restrictions. Go ahead in the back.
Speaker 6: (27:43)
Yes. Two questions. One domestic, one foreign, please. The first is they bill pressed [inaudible 00:27:51] a Congressman from New Jersey just about an hour ago, suggesting firing the entire postal board of governors. And he sent a letter to the President to that effect. Is there any plans to make changes given what happened at the post office over the last couple of years to try and remove the postmaster general?
Jen Psaki: (28:12)
It’s an interesting question. We all love the mailman and mail woman. I don’t have anything for you on it. I’m happy to check with our team on it and see if we have any specifics. I’m not aware of anything, but we’ll circle back with you.
Speaker 6: (28:24)
And on the foreign policy question, it’s my understanding that the previous administration did not release the War Powers Act Resolution Report before they left office. Is there any plans for… I know there’s a new secretary of defense as of-
Jen Psaki: (28:43)
As of, a few… Well, I guess Friday, but technically Friday.
Speaker 6: (28:47)
Technically Friday. Ceremonially today.
Jen Psaki: (28:49)
Speaker 6: (28:50)
Is there any plan to either release the Trump administration letter on the troop levels in various countries overseas, or to update that more quickly than might be required by the statute?
Jen Psaki: (29:04)
It’s an excellent question. I would send you to the Department Of Defense and my old friend, John Kirby, who I’m sure would be happy to answer your question. Go ahead in the back. With the excellent mask on. I can’t even tell what’s on it.
Speaker 7: (29:16)
Jen Psaki: (29:18)
Flamingos. All right, we’re getting creative with masks, I like it.
Speaker 7: (29:22)
After one year. So just back to Russia, given the many unsolved deaths over the years of President Putin’s opponents, or near deaths, in the case of Navalny. [inaudible 00:29:36] President Biden be holding President Putin personally accountable, for the continued health of Navalny, Nate, while he’s in prison? [inaudible 00:29:45] one of the things is different, but related.
Speaker 7: (29:48)
What’s the position of this administration on Paul Whelan? Because his family and some of his supporters said, basically the previous administration just forgot about it. What’s going on with Paul Whelan? What’s your position? Thank you.
Jen Psaki: (30:00)
Well, let me take the second question and talk to our National Security team and get you something more comprehensive. And certainly we don’t plan to follow the same pattern of the last administration. But on the first question, I would say, this is the reason why the President tasked his National Security team, his intelligence team with assessing a range of issues as it relates to our relationship with Russia.
Jen Psaki: (30:25)
Including the solar winds breach, including the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, which we have been quite outspoken about from our National Security Advisor to the State Department, will continue to be. We want to see that review conclude, but as has always been the case, the President reserves the right to respond in the time and manner of his choosing. And I’m not going to take options off the table from here. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (30:51)
Hi, I’m the print pooler today. So if possible, can I ask you a question also on behalf of one of my colleagues who couldn’t be here?
Jen Psaki: (30:57)
Speaker 8: (30:57)
[crosstalk 00:31:00]. Okay. So I’ll start with my question. New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio announced today that the city is delaying the opening of large COVID-19 vaccination sites at Yankee Stadium at City Field. Governor Cuomo has said the state has the capacity to vaccinate up to 100,000 folks a day, if there was supply.
Speaker 8: (31:19)
As the administration is analyzing and reconfiguring its distribution plan, how heavily is infrastructure being weighed? In other words, does New York get first did because it has the capacity to do this right away? And then the second question would be kind of on the same COVID note.
Speaker 8: (31:40)
There are seniors who don’t have access to websites. Don’t have folks vouching for them. Is there anything the administration is doing to ensure that seniors who don’t have anybody to assist them with scheduling these appointments, that they don’t fall through the cracks? And then I have a second question from another reporter.
Jen Psaki: (31:58)
Sure. So on the first question, this is really important one, infrastructure is pivotal. It’s not just about the science. Scientists, medical experts, what they’ve done over the last year, and moving this vaccine forward has been a Herculean effort. But now it is about ensuring that there are more vaccinators and there are more places to actually distribute the vaccine.
Jen Psaki: (32:20)
And clearly case scenarios where there are large facilities, whether they’re football fields or others to do that can be quite efficient. There are other places around the country where we are seeing developments along those fronts. And we’re certainly encouraging that. But this is a multifaceted challenge. It’s not just about having supply, which is pivotal, of course.
Jen Psaki: (32:41)
It’s also about having more people who can physically put the shots into the arms of Americans. And it’s about ensuring we have places that that can be done. I don’t have anything for you on the prioritization. That’s something of course, that our team is working through. And we want to ensure that we are working closely with governors across the country to effectively do that. Tell me your second question again, I know you have one after this.
Speaker 8: (33:05)
The second part to that question was just will there be any federal assistance to support States and reaching out to seniors who may not have access to internet or even phone to schedule these appointments. That’s been a complaint that’s emerged a lot.
Jen Psaki: (33:20)
Yeah. It’s a really important question because what we’ve discovered and what our team has discovered is that the further you get into vaccinating Americans, the harder it becomes. For a couple of reasons. One is vaccine hesitancy, which Dr. Fauci talked about as an issue that was of great concern to him, and some other health and medical experts.
Jen Psaki: (33:40)
And it’s more predominant in communities of color. But as you noted, there is also an issue with communicating with a range of people in the public; some in rural communities for different reasons. But also seniors and others who aren’t picking up their phone and looking at information on Instagram every day, and not receiving information in the same way that young adults would be. So part of our effort is to use an across the board, public communications campaign, an effort to meet people where they are.
Jen Psaki: (34:10)
And certainly thinking about how to reach seniors, doing it in a way where it is being done locally by trusted authorities and trusted figures locally, we found to be a key effective approach to that. But we will continue to be working on that, and is definitely one of the challenges that we’re facing.
Speaker 8: (34:29)
This question is from Ross Colombo, from ABC in South Florida. He asked, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has blasted part of the President’s COVID plans specifically saying, quote, “FEMA camps are not necessary in Florida has.” Has, or will, the President be reaching out to DeSantis? What is his reaction to comment like these?
Jen Psaki: (34:48)
Well, the President is a pretty even keeled guy. So I would say that he doesn’t have much of a reaction other than he wants to ensure that the vaccine is distributed to people across the country. Including of course, the millions of people living in Florida. And I will note, because we’re data first here, facts first here, they’ve only distributed about 50% of the vaccines that they have been given in Florida.
Jen Psaki: (35:12)
So clearly they have a good deal of the vaccine. That supply will need to continue to increase as they are able to effectively reach people across the state. But part of the challenge, as we were just talking about, is not just having the supply, that’s pivotal, but also having vaccinators and having vaccine distribution places.
Jen Psaki: (35:34)
And doing it in a way that’s reaching people where they are, and meeting local communities. And the President’s going to be focused on that in a bipartisan manner, regardless of what any elected official may have to say. Go ahead all the way in the back. All the way in the back.
Speaker 9: (35:49)
Jen Psaki: (35:50)
And then we’ll come to you. Sorry, go ahead.
Speaker 10: (35:51)
Thanks, Jen. In an executive order that the President signed last week, he also suspended a Trump administration executive order that was particularly aimed at keeping foreign countries, specifically-
Speaker 10: (36:03)
… that was particularly aimed at keeping foreign countries, specifically China, from interfering in the US power grid, but he suspended that for 90 days in that executive order last week. Given what you said about China today, why did he do that, especially related to something so critical to our national security as the power grid?
Jen Psaki: (36:19)
I’ll have to … I think the president’s view on our relationship with China, I tried to do my best to convey to all of you. I’ll have to check on that specific piece, and we’ll circle back with you directly. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (36:32)
Thank you. The administration said that the related Mexico policy from the prior administration would not be enforced anymore, but there are thousands of people who are stuck now as a result of that policy, and the administration has not said what it will do with them and how to process these migrants. What is the answer to that?
Jen Psaki: (36:55)
In terms of migrants at the border?
Speaker 11: (36:56)
Yeah. People who are stuck as a result and remain in Mexico. There are many thousands of people.
Jen Psaki: (36:56)
Well, I think there’s a couple of steps that we’re working to convey and convey more effectively to people directly living in many of the countries who have large populations who are coming to the border. One is that this is not the right time to come. We have proposed a number of policies that we are working to implement, including a pause on deportations. As you know, for people who are in the United States, that is something the Department of Homeland Security would be working to implement. We’ve also proposed an immigration bill, something the president put forward on day one, and we’ve also proposed funding to help address the circumstances and the challenging conditions that are on the ground in a number of these countries.
Speaker 11: (37:49)
If I may, I’m talking about those people who are in limbo at the moment. Not discouraging new people from coming and not applying it to new people, but those people who were specifically turned away by the Trump administration.
Jen Psaki: (37:59)
I’d send you to the Department of Homeland Security on that for a more specific assessment.
Speaker 11: (38:04)
Okay. For a second question, I just wanted to press you a little harder. You said earlier that the president had been speaking with members of the Senate, but you wouldn’t say who they were and anything about those conversations because they were private. I mean, they were presumably discussing the people’s business. Is that a matter … Why should those be private? Why not be more revealing of who the president’s speaking with that is in the government?
Jen Psaki: (38:31)
Well, what I said is that the president is speaking with Democrats and Republicans, as are a number of senior officials from the current White House, and will continue to do that. And what I meant was those conversations, getting their feedback about what they think about bills and legislation, how they feel about the COVID package that the president put forward, where they have concerns, where they have agreement, that some of those conversations are private. They can speak publicly about their conversations, of course, as many of them have done, but what I was confirming is that he personally is involved and will continue to be involved in moving this package forward.
Speaker 11: (39:07)
[inaudible 00:39:07] asking, why not release the names of the people who the president’s speaking with to negotiate on this bill? I mean, I know you want to have more transparency in this administration. You’ve talked about a lot already, and why not make that a part of the transparency effort?
Jen Psaki: (39:20)
Well, again, he’s speaking with members of both parties. A number of them would like to have those conversations private as well. A number of them have also spoken publicly about conversations they’ve had with the administration, and that is perfectly fine by us. Go ahead.
Speaker 12: (39:35)
Can I ask, going back to the COVID, do you know Americans will be able to be widely vaccinated?
Jen Psaki: (39:42)
Well, of course, we defer to our health and medical experts, as you all know, and Dr. Fauci spoke to this briefly last week, and I expect it’s something that our health and medical experts, who will be doing a briefing later this week, will be able to speak to more specifically. We obviously have set out our bold goal of a hundred million shots in the arms of Americans in the first hundred days. We will build from there and we’re looking forward to building from there, but I don’t have a new assessment for you on when a broad group of the population.
Speaker 10: (40:17)
But when anyone can get it if they want it is essentially what I’m asking. The previous administration said it would be sort of mid year. They said that regularly.
Jen Psaki: (40:23)
The CDC and other health and medical experts from our team have given assessments leaning towards the summer and fall, but I don’t have a new assessment for you from here. But I’d encourage you to ask them that, and that’s why we’re putting them out to answer questions to all of you. Jonathan, go ahead.
The Trump administration in its final weeks rushed through a number of federal executions. Has the president directed a moratorium on capital punishment and does he plan to?
Jen Psaki: (40:47)
The president’s position on the death penalty I think you’re probably familiar with. Others may not be. He’s opposed to the death penalty. I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of what steps he may take. Go ahead, Kaitlin.
Kaitlan Collins: (41:00)
You said that these coronavirus briefings were going to start. President Trump did not attend some of the coronavirus briefings at the end. He did not attend a lot of the coronavirus task force briefings. Is President Biden going to attend those task force meetings within the group that’s working on this?
Jen Psaki: (41:14)
He will be briefed regularly. I suspect far more regularly than the past president was briefed on COVID in the developments and progress the team is making. I wouldn’t expect he attends every task force meeting, no, but he expects and requests regular briefings from the team, and I expect he’ll get them. Go ahead.
Speaker 13: (41:34)
If the whole point of impeaching somebody is basically to get rid of them, and Trump is already gone, would President Biden support maybe the Senate censoring him just so that lawmakers can move on with the people’s business?
Jen Psaki: (41:47)
I really appreciate your creative way of asking this question, which has come up a few times in here. The president was in the Senate for 36 years, as you all know. He is no longer in the Senate, and he will leave it up to members of the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, to determine how they will hold the former president accountable.
Speaker 14: (42:08)
All right. Thank you, Jennifer.
Speaker 15: (42:08)
Oh, last one. Go ahead.
Speaker 16: (42:09)
I’m sorry. I just wanted to ask really briefly on Afghanistan, if you guys foresee further troop reductions there and what kind of numbers would we be talking about?
Jen Psaki: (42:17)
It’s an excellent question. We’re on day five, so I don’t have anything new for you on specifically Afghanistan troop reduction, but I’m hoping to get Jake Sullivan out to the briefing room soon to answer a lot of your questions on a range of issues.
Speaker 15: (42:30)
Speaker 16: (42:31)
Thank you, everyone.
Speaker 14: (42:31)
Speaker 17: (42:31)
Jen, you haven’t taken my question.
Jen Psaki: (42:33)
All right. One more. I’m sorry about that. We don’t want to leave you hanging. [crosstalk 00:00:42:37]. You’re very patient in the back.
Speaker 17: (42:38)
Yeah. I represent for the foreign press group.
Jen Psaki: (42:41)
Speaker 17: (42:42)
I have two foreign policy issue, one on China and on the UK. On China, you just mentioned about competition and Preston Biden’s HSR, Kurt Campbell, says he hopes for a stable competition. Is that what the White House is looking for? And you just mentioned about this comprehensive strategy. When can we expect that?
Jen Psaki: (43:08)
I appreciate all of those questions. I don’t have any preview for you on when we will have more specifics on our strategy. I’ve tried to convey overarching the president’s overarching approach, but again, this is a relationship that we are going to be communicating with and working with partners and allies on. There are a number of calls that will happen over the coming weeks with key partners and allies. I’m sure this will be a topic of discussion, as well as Democrats and Republicans on the Hill, and we are going to approach it with patients.
Speaker 17: (43:44)
And on the UK, we know over the weekend, President Biden had a phone call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Mr. Johnson said they talk about the free trade deal. However, from the White House readout, we don’t see that. Does the president support the free trade deal with the UK?
Jen Psaki: (44:07)
I haven’t talked to him or Jake Sullivan about that. I’ll venture to do that and see if I can get more for you on it. Thanks, everyone.
Speaker 17: (44:13)
And why is this omitted?
Jen Psaki: (44:15)
Speaker 17: (44:15)
Speaker 16: (44:15)
Speaker 13: (44:15)