Jul 19, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript July 19
July 19, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
… Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and NATO are joining the United States and exposing and criticizing the PRC’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities. And this is the first time NATO has condemned PRC cyber activities. So I would note that we are actually elevating and taking steps to not only speak out publicly, but certainly take action as it relates to problematic cyber activities from China, in a different way, but as we have from Russia as well. We are not differentiating. One is out of the realm of condemnation or out of the realm of consequence from the United States. In terms of the economic pieces, I think you’re asking me, give me a little more on your question you were trying to get at.
Speaker 1: (00:44)
Basically, the US economy depends a lot on Chinese imports. We only get $16 billion worth of goods from Russia. If we were to come with major sanctions on China, is there a risk that we can be hurting our own economy?
Jen Psaki: (00:57)
Well, I would say first that we take cyber actions against our country and against private sector entities, quite seriously. The Department of Justice is imposing costs and today, announced criminal charges against four MSS hackers. These charges address activities concerning a multi-year campaign, targeting foreign governments and entities in key sectors. We also have, of course, through the National Security Agency, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, exposed over 50 tactics, techniques and procedures Chinese state-sponsored cyber actors use when targeting US and allied networks.
Jen Psaki: (01:33)
My point is we are not holding back. We are not allowing any economic circumstance or consideration to prevent us from taking actions where warrant. And also, we reserve the option to take additional actions where warrant as well. This is not the conclusion of our efforts as it relates to cyber activities with China or Russia.
Speaker 1: (01:51)
But then, the second Facebook, the president suggested that executives look in the mirror and change their practices. Does that mean the administration isn’t considering any regulatory or legal moves to possibly address disinformation on social media?
Jen Psaki: (02:07)
Well, I don’t think we’ve taken any options off the table. That’s up to Congress to determine how they want to proceed moving forward. But let me just note that we are not in a war or a battle with Facebook. We’re in a battle with the virus and the problem we’re seeing, that our surgeon general elevated just last week is that disinformation traveling through a range of mediums. Some of them are a range of social media platforms, some of them are media. Some of them are through the mouths of public officials. That bad information, inaccurate information about vaccines is killing people. That’s where our concern is, and that’s what the president is working to express. And also what the surgeon general expressed in his report just last week. Go ahead, Steve.
Now that you’ve level these charges on China, do you plan to raise them with them?
Jen Psaki: (02:55)
We of course, will continue to be in touch with Chinese officials at a high level, and that will be the case in these regards as well.
Is the Chinese government actively doing the hacking or contracting it out?
Jen Psaki: (03:08)
I don’t have any more detail than that, Steve. Let me check and see if there’s more we can provide to you about-
Lastly the Belarus opposition leader is in Washington this week. I think, she’s going to meet Tony Blinken today. Is the president going to be with her?
Jen Psaki: (03:21)
We are still finalizing what the details are. She will be meeting with White House officials. I wouldn’t say it will be the president, but she will be meeting with White House officials when she’s here. We’ll have more to report on that, once those details are finalized. Go ahead, Phil.
Just to follow up, the statements that administrative state security was directly paying hackers [inaudible 00:03:41] was elevated. The president compared it to the Russia situation, but said that maybe they’re protecting them or accommodating them, bu doesn’t seem to be a direct link, is what the statement said this morning. I’m just trying to square where things stand in terms of how the White House views what’s actually transpired.
Jen Psaki: (03:57)
As it relates to the cyber activities in the attribution that was put out earlier this morning?
Jen Psaki: (04:02)
Well, first I would say that we felt it was important to be clear that, as was clear when we made the announcement this morning, that the former attribution of the malicious cyber campaign utilizing the zero day vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange server, which was disclosed in March 2021, two malicious cyber actors affiliated with the MSS with high confidence. That was the information put out by the intelligence community or by our national security team earlier today.
Jen Psaki: (04:32)
That is accurate. That’s why we worked also and it’s significant, which is why I pointed this out initially that we worked in coordination with many partners around the world, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and NATO, to criticize, expose and call out these malicious cyber activities. But that is the information that’s accurate about the attribution.
One more on that and then one further one. The president said he’s going to be briefed on it. In his remarks, he was asked about it, he said he was going to be briefed on it. This is a pretty significant escalation of things from the US and its allies. What more does the president need to be briefed on in terms of the process going forward?
Jen Psaki: (05:13)
I would say first, the president is regularly briefed. He certainly is aware of attributions that are determined by the US government, including the one announced earlier today. But this is an ongoing effort, an ongoing consideration of how to prevent these malicious actions from happening in the future to other private sector companies. Certainly something that the president will continue to speak with his national security team about.
And then just one on the economic side. Obviously, the president addressed inflation head on today. One thing that Chair Powell says, and I know you guys are in the same place on the idea that it’s transitory right now. But Chair Powell said in congressional testimony, “We’re humble about what we understand, given the fact that there’s no real roadmap coming out of a once in a century pandemic.” Is the White House economic team, when it comes to inflation, also humble about they understand, that maybe they don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen next as it pertains to a inflation?
Jen Psaki: (06:01)
Absolutely. We take inflation very seriously. It is under the purview of the Federal Reserve. As you know, they have regular quarterly meetings, where they put out that information and any considerations publicly. Their projection continues to be that, while there’s a projected increase in inflation this year, it’s expected to come back down to about 2.2 next year. They have not changed that, and that is in line with a number of outside economists as well.
Jen Psaki: (06:26)
You’re also correct that when the economy is turning back on from a global pandemic, there isn’t a lot of historic precedent for that. And certainly, we’re seeing prices go back to pre pandemic levels. In some cases, we’re also seeing a range of factors, including shortages in the supply chain, from chip shortages that are impacting the auto industry, to lumber shortages that are impacting the housing industry, that are also factors here as we’re seeing price increases. But we do look at all of that. We take it incredibly seriously, and we respect the role of the Federal Reserve as well. Go ahead, Rachel.
Two questions. One, just follow up on China and the cyber attacks. A senior administration officials said that no one country acting on its own, can change China’s behavior. So if the United States were to take action against China, would it do so alone, or does the administration feel like we need allies on board to take that step?
Jen Psaki: (07:16)
Well, it’s a good question, Rachel. I think as we’ve approached our China strategy from the beginning and our policy, as it relates to China, we’ve always felt that working together, working in partnership with allies around the world and also in partnership with members of the federal government, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, was how we approached it from a position of strength.
Jen Psaki: (07:38)
So what’s significant today is that while we’re all calling out these malicious cyber activities, so are a number of our key partners around the world, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan. These malicious cyber activities are not only impacting the United States. They’re impacting a range of countries, a range of partners. And yes, we would of course, like to work with countries and work with our key partners around the world, moving forward. And obviously we can’t determine steps and consequences on their behalf, but that is certainly our objective and how we’ve approached our strategy today.
You’re not ruling out taking action on your own, if you felt like it was necessary?
Jen Psaki: (08:17)
No, we’re not. But we also, from the beginning, have felt that working in partnership, working in coordination and working together is a stronger way to approach malicious activity, cyber activity, and others in areas of concern around the world.
One quick follow up just on infrastructure. Republicans are saying that they don’t want to move forward with this test vote that’s scheduled for Wednesday, without knowing exactly how they’re going to pay for everything in that bipartisan infrastructure bill. Senator Bill Cassidy, over the weekend, said the White House is not working with Republicans on the pay-fors and that he feels like they’re competing with Democrat’s $3.5 trillion plan. So does the administration feel like these differences can be resolved in the next 48 hours?
Jen Psaki: (08:59)
First, I think it’s important to take a step back and remember that a month ago, a bipartisan group of senators stood outside of the White House with the president to announce an agreement on an infrastructure framework. There’s been a lot of progress since then, a lot of late nights, a lot of coffee drinking and important legislating bill writing that’s happened, but the American people have waited a long time. The American people are ready to see progress, and we believe it’s time for progress to happen and time for this legislation to move forward. We also work in close contact or close coordination with of course, Leader Schumer. And we defer to him and other leaders in Congress on the timeline and the sequencing of legislation, moving forward. Go ahead, Ed.
On the discussion with Leader Schumer, has he talked in the last few days at all with any of the Republicans who are negotiating?
Jen Psaki: (09:47)
The president? I don’t have any calls to read out for you. I can tell you that our team, senior White House officials have been in close contact with Democrats and Republicans, members and their offices. And whenever it warrants, the president is always happy to pick up the phone.
And then on the Guantanamo Bay announcement today, senior officials said 10 of the remaining detainees are eligible for repatriation. Any sense yet of the targeted timelines for transferring them? And is there a broader goal within this administration of closing Guantanamo Bay, has that timeline [inaudible 00:10:21]?
Jen Psaki: (10:22)
Yes. Our goal is to close Guantanamo Bay. I can tell you that there’s 39, I think, you know some of this. But for others who are following it, there are 39 detainees who remain at Guantanamo Bay. 10 are eligible for transfer, 17 are eligible for a periodic review board, 10 are involved in the military commissions process and two detainees have been convicted.
Jen Psaki: (10:42)
This individual who we announced the transfer of, the Department of Defense announced the transfer of, had started moving through the process during the Obama/Biden administration and was on pause for some period of time over the last four years. I don’t have a timeline for you. As you know, there’s a process. There are different layers of the process, but that remains our goal. And we are considering all available avenues to responsibility transfer detainees, and of course, close Guantanamo Bay.
We, and a few other outlets have reported that the administration [inaudible 00:11:12] plan to send about 2,500 Afghan translators and I believe members at Fort Lee in Virginia, as they complete the steps to have their legal status in this country reviewed. Will there be other US military bases in the United States also used to house them temporarily?
Jen Psaki: (11:33)
First, any confirmation and final details of military based usage would be from the Department of Defense and the State Department, given they’re implementing these programs. I expect they will have more to share with you, Ed. I just want to defer to them, given it Is their programs. I will say that when I went through the programs and how the process worked last week, one of the things I tried to note, but I will elevate again here is that individuals who have completed the process, the security review, the vetting and security process, could be-
Jen Psaki: (12:03)
The security review, the vetting and security process could be relocated to the United States. That would be certainly U.S. military bases. And the Department of Defense will assess how many of those and how many facilities they would need for those transfers.
So, real quick, scheduling things.
Jen Psaki: (12:17)
Is the president at all scheduled to meet anytime soon with members of the Texas Democratic House Delegation that’s here in Washington?
Jen Psaki: (12:24)
I don’t have any meetings to preview for you at this point in time.
And I hesitate to ask this because I’m only a slight-
Jen Psaki: (12:30)
Don’t hesitate. It’s okay. It’s a Monday.
Is Tom Brady joining the Buccaneers here at the White House tomorrow? I’ve been asked to ask this by several.
Jen Psaki: (12:37)
It’s okay. I don’t have the list of Buccaneers attending tomorrow in front of me. We will see if we can venture to get that for you all by the end of the day. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (12:47)
Thank you, Jen, and great throw yesterday.
Jen Psaki: (12:48)
Speaker 2: (12:49)
At the Nationals.
Jen Psaki: (12:50)
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Speaker 2: (12:52)
On vaccine hesitancy, as COVID-19 cases rise, if this is becoming a pandemic will be unvaccinated and you guys are having a hard time getting a certain part of the population to go get the shot.
Jen Psaki: (13:05)
Speaker 2: (13:05)
Would President Biden ever call former president Trump and say, “I need your help. Let’s cut a PSA and tell people to go do it.”
Jen Psaki: (13:13)
Well, first I would say that what we’ve seen in our data is that the most trusted voices are local officials, doctors, medical experts, civic leaders, clergy from time to time. And that is where we’ve really invested our funding and our resources. We’ve seen almost every former president play a role in putting out a PSA, making sure people understood in the country that the vaccine is safe and effective. We don’t believe that requires an embroidered invitation to be a part of. But certainly any role of anyone who has a platform where they can provide information to the public that the vaccine is safe, it is effective, we don’t see this as a political issue. We’d certainly welcome that engagement.
Speaker 2: (13:58)
And, about those Texas Democrats, since the vice president met with these Texas democratic lawmakers, five of them have now tested positive for COVID-19. Is there any safety concern about her spending time around the president until a certain amount of time has passed?
Jen Psaki: (14:12)
Well, first I would say, I think the vice president’s office put out that she was tested and that there was no detection of COVID-19. They also put out some specific details about their proximity to the individuals who tested positive as well. We take these precautions incredibly seriously and abide by the guidance of our health and medical experts.
Speaker 2: (14:33)
Do officials here wish that those Texas Democrats would have been more careful and taken more precautions like wearing masks on the flight here?
Jen Psaki: (14:42)
Again, I don’t think I’m going to be in a position here to assess what safety precautions they may or may not have taken. Obviously, these individuals were out there trying to elevate the issue of an individual’s rights to vote. We, of course, hope everybody abides by public health guidelines. That’s what we certainly recommend. But what’s important for everybody to know is that the vice-president was tested. She, of course, takes these precautions seriously. And we would follow any advice our public health officials give us.
Speaker 2: (15:11)
And can you tell us anything else about the nature of her trip to Walter Reed yesterday?
Jen Psaki: (15:14)
Yes. It was a visit that was scheduled for several weeks, long before the visit of the Texas legislators, a routine appointment, which she had, again, scheduled several weeks ago. Go ahead, Kelly.
And just to button that up, she and the president have been in the same room since she had that test. There’s no separation of the president and the vice president.
Jen Psaki: (15:35)
There haven’t been additional precautions taken. No.
On China, can you help us understand why the president, asked a couple of questions today, was not sort of in the same posture we’ve seen toward Russia where he has called out Russia publicly to stop? And, from what we know based on the administration’s findings, this is China paying cyber criminals to carry out. Whereas, in Russia, our understanding is Putin may have some looser relationship or perhaps some ability to direct criminal actors, but not that connection. So, we gave the president an opportunity to address the China issue today. He seemed to pull his punches and not go after China. Why?
Jen Psaki: (16:15)
Well, I would say first, Kelly, that that was not the intention he was trying to project. He takes malicious cyber activity incredibly seriously. The effort to engage and unite an unprecedented group of our allies and partners was something that was under his direction. And he continues to feel it’s important to lead from a position of strength in close coordination with our partners and allies around the world. And he takes malicious cyber activity, whether it’s from Russia or China, whomever the actors may be, quite seriously. And I think our efforts to lead on this should be an indication of that.
On COVID, does the administration think it is appropriate at this time to try to do more tracking on breakthrough cases, since there were more reports of that, and that’s not something to CDC has been following, except when it’s hospitalizations? Should more data collection take place?
Jen Psaki: (17:09)
It’s a great question. I’ll have to talk to our health and medical experts about the benefits of that tracking and how they see that as a public health priority. I will note that what we’ve continued to see is that the individuals, 99.5% of people who are being hospitalized and dying of COVID are not vaccinated. The individuals who have gotten COVID, I should say, a number of these individuals we’ve been talking about from a public manner have been getting mild cases, have not been hospitalized. That’s, of course, no one’s preference to get any form, but they have been asymptomatic. And that is showing that the vaccine is actually working. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (17:47)
Yeah. On the virus, the president spoke this morning about the economic boom the country is undergoing.
Jen Psaki: (17:52)
Speaker 3: (17:53)
But stock and oil prices fell today in part because of rising concerns about the Delta Variant. Is the administration, is the president considering reinstating mask requirements at all, both for health, but also for economic reasons?
Jen Psaki: (18:06)
Well, first, I would say that we look, our health and medical experts look closely at the broad swath of data across the country. And I would remind you all that almost 70% of adults are still vaccinated in this country. We are not in the place we were two months, three months, six months ago, as it relates to our fight with the virus. It is still underway. We are still battling the virus. There’s no question. And, as the president said just on Friday, this has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated in that that is where we are seeing hospitalizations, where we are seeing deaths. We certainly have seen, of course, the movements in the stock market. We also know that unemployment is down, economic growth is up, job creation is up, wages are up. And we can assure people we are still at war with the virus, even as we’ve seen progress made over the last several months.
Speaker 3: (18:59)
One more also on COVID. I’m sure you’ve seen an alternate on the women’s gymnastics team has tested positive while in Japan. Any specific precautions the White House is taking with the first lady’s travel to ensure her safety as she goes over there?
Jen Psaki: (19:12)
Well, first, we are aware of, of course, COVID-19 cases among handful of athletes. We’re monitoring the situation, wishing a speedy recovery to those who have tested positive. Public health remains a central priority for the games. The government of Japan and the IOC have very strict protocols and they’re taking careful safety precautions to keep the athletes and the public safe. Nothing has changed in terms of our plans for the U.S. delegation. Our team will be following very strict safety and health protocols, limiting engagement with the public and keeping our footprint as small as possible. Our COVID team at the White House, as well as health officials at the IOC and the government of Japan, all agree that the stringent protocols and health measures in place will keep them safe. But, of course, we continue to monitor individuals who are going.
Speaker 3: (19:59)
Anything specific with the first lady’s travel?
Jen Psaki: (20:01)
There is nothing new. Nothing has changed as it relates to her travel or the travel of the delegation. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (20:06)
Earlier today, the president said he wasn’t sure whether Facebook had done enough since last week to combat misinformation. Is there anything that the White House can point to generally that perhaps indicates that companies are getting the message?
Jen Psaki: (20:19)
Well, I think, as I kind of started off in response to Josh, I would just go back to the point that our fight is not with one social media platform. It is with the virus. And we have a role. Everybody has a role in combating misinformation.
Jen Psaki: (20:35)
In terms of monitoring, whether there have been steps that have been taken. I mean, there are things that you all can assess. There’s no secret monitoring. Right? You all can assess as media organizations and companies as well. Do you have access to information from these platforms as to who is receiving misinformation? I don’t think that information has been released. Do you know how the algorithms are working at any of these platforms? I don’t think that information has been released. But, again, this is not about one platform. This is about misinformation that we’re seeing travel around into the minds, the inboxes, the minds of individuals, of people around the country, inaccurate information that is preventing people from taking the step to get in vaccinated. And that is, of course, a public health concern for us.
Speaker 4: (21:26)
One quick follow-up there just to button it down on the Senate calendar for Wednesday.
Jen Psaki: (21:29)
Speaker 4: (21:30)
So, the White House has no pause at this point about going forward with the clincher vote on Wednesday?
Jen Psaki: (21:35)
It is the decision of the leader, of leader Schumer on the timing and the schedule of the Senate votes. I will note, again, that it has been about four weeks since the president and bipartisan members stood outside together and announced an agreement. Lots of work has happened. Lots of good work together. Bipartisan work has happened. But we believe it’s time to move forward with this vote, with congressional action. Go ahead, Anne.
Two quickly on Guantanamo, and then I have one other thing. Can you be a little more precise about what the president’s timeline is for closure of one Guantanamo? For example, does he think, as some advocates have suggested, that it should be closed in this his first year in office? If not, does he have a deadline?
Jen Psaki: (22:20)
I don’t have a new deadline to outline here for you today.
So, just closure when it can be closed.
Jen Psaki: (22:26)
Well, as you know, Anne, there are several components of this process. It includes notifications and consultations with Congress. It’s not something where one individual, even the president of the United States, can do it on his own.
And then, on military commissions, ten of the remaining 39 detainees are eligible for military commission prosecution.
Jen Psaki: (22:44)
As you know, the chief prosecutor has retired with no announcement of a replacement ahead of the first major trial of the Biden administration under that protocol. What is the administration’s plan for military commissions? And does the president continue to believe that it is an appropriate way to deal with the remaining detainees?
Jen Psaki: (23:09)
Nothing has changed about the appropriateness or his view, our view, the president’s view of the appropriateness of the commissions. I can certainly check the Department of Defense and national security team if there’s additional-
And then, lastly, there’s some new Havana syndrome cases or suspected cases.
Jen Psaki: (23:23)
Is the administration now prepared to say that it believes Russia is responsible for the string of attacks? And what is the president doing to protect U.S. diplomats and others from these kinds of attacks?
Jen Psaki: (23:38)
Well, the NSC, the National Security Council is coordinating a full review of intelligence reporting to ascertain whether there may be previously unreported incidents that fit a broader pattern. At this time, we still don’t know the cause of these incidents or whether they constitute an attack of some kind by a foreign actor. These are areas of active inquiry, something that our intelligence community is working on and very focused on. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (24:02)
Oh, Jen. Thanks so much.
Jen Psaki: (24:03)
Jen Psaki: (24:03)
Speaker 6: (24:03)
Jen, thanks so much. The infrastructure framework, if it fails to advance on Wednesday what’s the back-up plan? Is the President committed to making sure it’s a bipartisan component or will Democrats go it alone?
Jen Psaki: (24:13)
We’re not quite there yet. There is a lot of good work that’s happened. Two days is a lifetime in Washington, so I don’t think we’re going to make predictions of the death of the infrastructure package.
Speaker 6: (24:25)
Can you share some more about what possible pay-fors the President’s team has proposed that might fall under the category of things Republicans have not already rejected and that the White House has not already rejected?
Jen Psaki: (24:37)
I understand the question, certainly. Those conversations and discussions are being had among the bipartisan group that is finalizing this piece of legislation. There was agreement, of course, on the support for the IRS step that would have just ensured that some of the wealthiest Americans paid what they owed in taxes, some have backed away from that. There are other ways that they’re discussing, we’re open to alternatives, very open to alternatives from this end but we’ll let those conversations happen privately and be supportive of them from our end. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (25:13)
Another pay-for question. The president was insisted that the pay-fors not included an increasing the gas tax, but the agreement does rely on things like public-private partnerships that typically use tolls to pay for the infrastructure. So can you talk about the difference in user fees? Why is tolling and other user fees okay but gas taxes are not as a mechanism for paying for some of this?
Jen Psaki: (25:37)
I mean, his fundamental base point is that we can’t raise taxes for individuals making less than $400,000 a year. In terms of the specific tolling pay-for, I’d have to get more specific details on that. But in his view, nothing violates his commitment on the $400,000. Go ahead Karen.
Thanks Jen. The American Academy of Pediatrics today recommended that everyone wear a mask in schools this fall regardless of their vaccination status, that that’s the only way to keep kids safe. The CDC guidance does not go that far, it says if you are vaccinated you can go without a mask but locals could decide universal masking. We’ve heard you say repeatedly that the President leans on his trusted medical and health advisors, but would the President liked to see masking in all schools this fall?
Jen Psaki: (26:22)
The President is going to rely on the recommendations of the CDC, and also local school districts will make their own decisions based on the publicly available health guidelines. That’s always how it’s worked and I think it will continue to work that way moving forward.
Dr. Fauci today on CNN gave an interview and he said that these different recommendations, Pediatric Association, CDC, local jurisdictions, that these types of recommendations can be confusing because they are conflicting or different in some places. What does the White House say to Americans and to parents who may be confused hearing one thing this morning from the AAP, knowing the CDC has something different, how do you sort through all of that?
Jen Psaki: (26:58)
As a parent myself, it can be confusing. I think we acknowledged that. We rely from the federal government on the guidance of the CDC, and that’s how we make recommendations on public health issues from the federal government. There will be different decisions made by school districts just like there will be different decisions made by local communities. We certainly understand and recognize that, but we will continue to rely on the CDC for guidelines and guidance. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (27:26)
Now that caseload numbers are rising with a Delta variant, is there something that the Biden administration wish they had done differently to avoid getting to this point to get us to a better position by now?
Jen Psaki: (27:36)
Well, I don’t know that there were many people who were many people predicting different impacts of different variants over time. The steps that we took, we ensured there was enough vaccine across the country and in communities to make sure anybody who wanted to get vaccinated could get vaccinated. We’ve invested in local messengers to ensure that trusted voices are getting out into local communities. We’ve relied on tactics that we’ve seen work effectively, whether it’s mobile units or empowering and engaging and funding doctors and medical experts to get out into local communities.
Jen Psaki: (28:10)
We also always knew there would be ups and downs in the fight against a virus that is evolving and changing. And that’s one of the reasons that we’ve been calling out misinformation, the impact of misinformation. I mean, we’ve seen just over the last couple of days, there was a poll that showed that about 20% of the public thinks that microchips are embedded in vaccines.
Jen Psaki: (28:31)
Now we all know that’s inaccurate and not true, but why does 20% of the public thinks it? Is it one platform’s fault? No. Is it one outlet’s fault? No. But we all have a responsibility to make sure accurate information is out there. So that is our effort to make sure people know they need to be informed and be thoughtful about information they’re getting and the sources of it.
Speaker 8: (28:52)
Question on the cybersecurity issue, obviously the attribution to China today for the ransomware attack, does the United States use ransomware attacks in its cyber offensive programs?
Jen Psaki: (29:01)
I don’t have anything about our intelligence or use of cyber actions or intelligence that I’m going to convey from here. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (29:08)
Jen Psaki: (29:09)
Oh, I’ll go to you, let me just take that. Go ahead.
Speaker 10: (29:12)
Does the President believe that those who mislead Congress should be prosecuted?
Jen Psaki: (29:17)
Who mislead Congress?
Speaker 10: (29:19)
Yeah. It’s the Department of Justice’s decision not to prosecute Wilbur Ross. Just wondering if there’s a general rule of whether he feels they should be prosecuted if they mislead Congress?
Jen Psaki: (29:28)
I would point you to the Department of Justice on that case, I don’t have any more details from here.
Speaker 9: (29:32)
A follow up on misinformation on social media. I heard you say that all options are on the table including maybe legal, would that mean a potential legal action against the 12 that have come of concern for misinformation?
Jen Psaki: (29:46)
All I was conveying is I’m not taking… I think the question was about legislative action. And I said that’s up to Congress and I’m not here to take options off of the table. That’s Congress’s purview to determine how they’re going to forward.
Speaker 9: (29:58)
[crosstalk 00:29:58] follow-up does that mean if it’s the purview of Congress that the administration or President Biden is seeing Section 230 a little differently? It reforms the Section 230 that protect social media companies from third party information?
Jen Psaki: (30:14)
I think the President has been pretty clear in the past that he believes there’s a responsibility of all platforms, including social media platforms, about the information that is traveling on their sites. But I don’t have anything new about his position on that issue. Go ahead, Francesca.
Thanks Jen. Quick point of clarification on immigration first though.
Jen Psaki: (30:33)
Is pathway to citizenship that the President supports in the budget bill for all undocumented immigrants, or is it the more narrow group of TBS holders, essential workers, dreamers, as well as farm laborers?
Jen Psaki: (30:45)
We’ll let Senate leaders put out the specifics in the reconciliation bill, we certainly support using the reconciliation package as a platform and a forum for moving immigration protections forward. But we’ll let leaders in Congress speak to what’s included.
On voting rights, is the White House worried that if new federal voting legislation does not pass before August 6, which is the anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that it won’t happen before next November?
Jen Psaki: (31:17)
I don’t think we draw that timeline conclusion. No. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (31:23)
On immigration, some leading immigration advocates have suggested they do expect the Supreme Court to uphold Judge Hanen’s ruling on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. And at this point, does the administration have any other options to protect DACA or dreamer kids or is really a congressional route the only route [inaudible 00:31:44]
Jen Psaki: (31:44)
I think as the President’s statement made clear, a congressional route is the way to make it permanent. And certainly our Department of Justice has also indicated their intention to fight this effort even after the ruling on Friday as well.
Speaker 11: (31:55)
So any interim actions before Congress were to act, specifically on the DACA program?
Jen Psaki: (32:00)
I think again, as the statement made clear, congressional action is the way to make it permanent and that’s something the President has long supported and will continue to advocate for. Go ahead.
Speaker 12: (32:10)
Going back on voting rights real quick, I spoke with Texas State Representative Bowers this morning, who now says it’s actually six members who have COVID there in the delegation. But she said that they are worried that nothing’s going to come from the administration by that August 6th, when special session ends. And so she’s wondering, is there any kind of movement that we can see from the President coming out by that time? I know we still don’t know if there’s going to be anything on the schedule, but is there anything that he’s planning to say or do?
Jen Psaki: (32:41)
Do you mean the passage of the bill or… What do you mean exactly? What are they expecting in terms of the passage of the legislation or…?
Speaker 12: (32:52)
They’re worried that nothing is going to happen by August the 6th and so that was a big concern when I spoke with her this morning that there’s no movement that’s going to be coming from the administration.
Jen Psaki: (33:02)
Well, it would require Congress passing the For the People Act for the President to sign it into law. The action would be first on Congress, not on the President.
Speaker 12: (33:11)
Will he be saying anything, coming out and saying I know we’ve already talked about the filibuster like 50 million times-
Jen Psaki: (33:15)
Beyond the speech he gave last week?
Speaker 12: (33:17)
Yes, that is exactly what they are hoping.
Jen Psaki: (33:18)
I think he will continue to advocate for voting rights as a fundamental right for people across the country. That is something he gave a major speech on six days ago and he will continue to look for opportunities to elevate that moving forward as well, absolutely. Go ahead.
Speaker 13: (33:34)
I have a follow-up question to Peter’s question about Trump, and then I have my own vaccine question.
Jen Psaki: (33:39)
Speaker 13: (33:39)
In my follow up, even if the administration doesn’t partner with the Former President, would it consider highlighting or acknowledging in a greater way his role in creating the vaccines to assure the rural voters who still support President Trump that are hesitant to get the vaccine?
Jen Psaki: (33:56)
Do you have data to suggest that that’s the issue that’s preventing people from getting vaccinated?
Speaker 13: (34:01)
Well, we’re seeing that the communities that have the lowest vaccination rates did seem to vote for President Trump.
Jen Psaki: (34:07)
Okay. But what I’m asking you is if information related to whether or not the Former President got credit is leading people not to get vaccinated? Or is it information like microchips in vaccines and it causing fertility issues causing health issues? Because you’re drawing a few conclusions there that I haven’t seen in data, but maybe you have that information to provide?
Speaker 13: (34:30)
No, but I think it’s common sense that these are people who supported him, these are people who are hesitant to get vaccinated. I don’t think it takes a lot to draw the conclusion.
Jen Psaki: (34:39)
Well, let me be very clear, our objective is to ensure all Americans will get vaccinated. Of course we’d love that, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, it’s not a political issue to us. The virus does not look at people’s party affiliation. We recognize that, the President’s going to govern for all people.
Jen Psaki: (34:59)
What I’m conveying to you is you’re jumping to a few conclusions that I don’t think data backs up in terms of what the impacts are. And what we’re seeing is that misinformation, traveling in a range of means whether it’s social media platforms, some forms of media, some elected officials, is having the biggest factor as it relates to individuals not getting vaccinated because people don’t have access to accurate information. Go ahead.
Thank you, Jen. The President is about to meet with the King of Jordan shortly. This visit comes at a pivotal time considering what’s happened in Jordan, that constant attack on US forces in Syria and Iraq and the Israeli government, to name a few. Does that mean that the White House is paying more attention now to the Middle East? And, what do you hope this visit will achieve?
Jen Psaki: (35:49)
We have been paying quite a bit of attention, we would argue, to the Middle East and the range of issues that you’ve highlighted, Nadia. Whether it is the attacks that we’ve seen on bases in parts of the Middle East, or whether it is-
Jen Psaki: (36:03)
… basis in parts of the Middle East, or whether it is our desire, of course, to even move forward on lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Jordan has been a key partner for some time, long before President Biden took office, to the United States through many presidents, in these efforts, in these endeavors.
Jen Psaki: (36:21)
Sorry, this is an aggressive fly. During the meeting today, I apologize is a very-
Speaker 14: (36:30)
Jen Psaki: (36:30)
Jen Psaki: (36:30)
During the meeting today, we hope this will be an opportunity to highlight the enduring and strategic partnership between the United States and Jordan, a key security partner. It’s also an opportunity to discuss the many challenges facing the Middle East and showcase Jordan’s leadership role in promoting peace and stability in the region. Certainly, we expect that everything from Middle East peace to security in the region to be points of discussion, to Syria to be points of discussion during the meeting this afternoon. We’ll have a readout after the meeting concludes.
Jen Psaki: (36:58)
Speaker 15: (36:59)
Jen Psaki: (36:59)
Speaker 15: (36:59)
Thank you, Jen.
Speaker 16: (37:00)
Oh, go ahead.
Jen Psaki: (37:03)
Oh, [inaudible 00:37:03], sorry, we’ll go to you next. Go ahead. Yeah.
Speaker 15: (37:05)
Let me take you to Ethiopia.
Jen Psaki: (37:06)
Speaker 15: (37:08)
His and the other countries have been supporting and into the fighting in [inaudible 00:37:12] region. The first step in the fighting, the government in Tigray had declared a unilateral ceasefire with our troops from the region, but TPLF [inaudible 00:37:23] rejected the ceasefire, calling it a sick joke. TPLF continues the war, especially by deploying child soldiers in this conflict. If the war continues, then thousands and thousands of people will die. What is the Biden administration’s statement on TPLF’s refusal to accept the ceasefire and the use of children as soldiers.
Jen Psaki: (37:55)
Well, certainly we take a security instability in Ethiopia quite seriously. I would point you to the State Department. I know my colleague Ned Price is briefing later this afternoon and could give you more details on what our work is and engagement and our view from the US government.
Jen Psaki: (38:09)
Speaker 16: (38:10)
Is the White House seeking any meetings with social media companies when you’re talking about misinformation?
Jen Psaki: (38:17)
We have been in regular touch from the beginning of the administration, because we knew from the beginning that misinformation, or disinformation, and how it would travel out there into the world, was going to be a challenge. That has been something that has been ongoing since the beginning of the administration.
Speaker 16: (38:35)
I also wanted to ask you, someone asked earlier about Republicans backing off the idea of increasing funding for the IRS.
Jen Psaki: (38:43)
Speaker 16: (38:45)
When you’re talking about that and the president being open to other proposals, are you talking within the framework of the bipartisan framework or the reconciliation package or both?
Jen Psaki: (38:54)
The bipartisan framework. That is the discussion with Republicans. Of course, we would welcome Republican support for the reconciliation package, but we’re talking about specifically the pay-fors on the bipartisan infrastructure framework.
Speaker 16: (39:09)
Jen Psaki: (39:10)
Go ahead in the back.
Speaker 17: (39:11)
Thank you. Will the White House publicly release information on quotes that it considers misinformation on vaccines that it’s asked Facebook to block?
Jen Psaki: (39:23)
First of all, we’ve not asked Facebook to block any individual posts. The way this works is that there are trending, there are trends that are out there on social media platforms. You’re aware of them. We’re aware of them. Anyone in the public can be aware of them. There’s also data that we look at that many media platforms like many of you also look at data in terms of trends and you report on it, which is to be expected, given the number of people who get their information from social media. It’s up to social media platforms to determine what their application is of their own rules and regulations. We just certainly raise where we have concerns about information that’s inaccurate that is traveling out there in whatever platform it’s traveling on.
Jen Psaki: (40:10)
Speaker 18: (40:11)
Thank you, Jen. Does the White House welcome the news that the Haitian interim prime minister Claude Joseph is stepping aside and handing power to Ariel Henry?
Jen Psaki: (40:25)
Well, we have been encouraging for several days now, Haitian political actors to work together and find a political way forward. We’ve certainly seen news reports. We have not received an official notification through our embassy, but we welcome reports that Haitian political actors are working together to determine a path forward in the country.
Jen Psaki: (40:51)
Speaker 19: (40:51)
Yeah. Thank you, Jen. As you know, the leader of [inaudible 00:40:56] opposition [inaudible 00:40:57] is in the country right now.
Jen Psaki: (40:59)
Speaker 19: (40:59)
She’s meeting with Jake Sullivan. She’s meeting with Secretary of State Blinken. Any chance that she will make with President Biden?
Jen Psaki: (41:06)
I think somebody asked this question a little bit-
Speaker 19: (41:07)
Sorry. [crosstalk 00:41:08]
Jen Psaki: (41:07)
Oh, no, no. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. She will be meeting with senior White House officials. There is not currently a meeting scheduled for her with the president.
Jen Psaki: (41:17)
Go, Josh. What’s happening?
I just wanted to thank you, Jen. But as a point of privilege, I wanted to jump in. Canada announced it’s going to reopen its borders for US citizens who are vaccinated on August 9th. Does the United States plan to reciprocate?
Jen Psaki: (41:31)
We are continuing to review our travel restrictions. Any decisions about reopening travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts. We take this incredibly seriously, but we look and are guided by our own medical experts and I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.
Jen Psaki: (41:51)
Go ahead. Go ahead in the middle. Yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 20: (41:55)
Thank you. As you know, Senate Republicans have been calling on the president to withdraw his nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management, Tracy Stone-Manning over connections to this tree spiking incident in 1989. That escalated last week with this former Forest Service investigator coming forward with an account that contradicts what she’s told senators, as well as a man who was convicted in that case. Have those revelations changed the president’s view on that nominee at all?
Jen Psaki: (42:25)
It has not. He stands by his nominee and looks forward to her getting confirmed. Go ahead in the middle.
Speaker 21: (42:31)
Thanks, Jen. I appreciate it. I just had a quick follow-up on the Facebook stuff.
Jen Psaki: (42:35)
Speaker 21: (42:35)
Did anyone from the administration this weekend talk with Facebook officials, giving the president’s comments on Friday?
Jen Psaki: (42:41)
Again, I think it’s important for all of you to note that we are not at war with any social media platform. We are at war with the virus.
Speaker 21: (42:49)
Jen Psaki: (42:50)
We have been in regular touch since the beginning of the administration, as we knew that there are a range of entities, platforms, media organizations, public officials who all have a role in combating misinformation. This is not personal. It is about fighting a virus that is still killing thousands of people.
Speaker 21: (43:09)
Jen Psaki: (43:09)
That’s our objective. Thanks, everyone. Have a great day. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Jen, shouldn’t the president open up his East Room events to the full press, like every other president?
Jen Psaki: (43:18)
We’ll look forward to seeing you soon, Brian.