Jul 8, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript July 8
July 8, 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)
All right. I will also note Brian Karem, excellent voice. I don’t know what you do with that, but that’s one thing I learned today.
Jen Psaki: (00:09)
Okay, a couple of items for you. Today, as you all know, the President and Vice President will meet with Black leaders from top civil rights organizations. We are about to put out the list of these names if they are not already in your inbox, but that is happening this afternoon. We’ll have a readout. We also expect a number of them will go out to the stakeout after the meeting.
Jen Psaki: (00:28)
Later today, Vice President Harris will also deliver remarks at Howard University on how the democratic National Committee is expanding their I Will Vote campaign, for which the DNC can give you additional specifics.
Jen Psaki: (00:39)
As the President has been emphatic since before taking office, our constitutional rights are on the line because state legislatures have forced through a wave of anti-voter laws based on the same repeatedly disproven lies that led to an assault on our nation’s Capitol and one of the darkest days in the history of American democracy.
Jen Psaki: (00:57)
So the meeting today, the Vice President event, are part of our ongoing effort to elevate this issue, to work with every lever of the federal government.
Jen Psaki: (01:07)
Also wanted to note, as you may have noticed, we’ve been doing kind of a daily announcement about our competition executive order. So the new announcement that went out today focuses on saving American businesses money on shipping costs. In turn, that will lower prices for American consumers.
Jen Psaki: (01:25)
A lot of American companies rely on railroads to ship their goods domestically and ocean carriers to ship their goods internationally, and both of these industries have grown more concentrated over time. Many freight routes are monopolized because they’re served by a single railroad. Three foreign owned shipping alliances now control more than 80% of the market. I did not know that. I’m learning something new every day with the competition EOs, which I appreciate.
Jen Psaki: (01:49)
That concentration has contributed to a spike in shipping costs and fees during the pandemic. For example, the index price to ship one container has gone up eight-fold, and shipping container companies have charged companies massive fees while their goods sit at ports.
Jen Psaki: (02:02)
So this executive order takes several steps to address these problems on international shipping. The executive order calls on the Federal Maritime Commission to crack down on unjust and unreasonable fees and work with the Justice Department to investigate and punish anti-competitive conduct. And on domestic freight railroad, the executive order urges the Surface Transportation Board to allow a lot of shippers to more easily challenge inflated rates when there is no competition between routes. Finally, today, we also have more doses that are going out to the world. We’ll ship 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Uruguay and 1.4 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Afghanistan. In the coming days, we’ll complete the entire 3 million shipment of J&J doses to Afghanistan, something the President also mentioned in his remarks today.
Jen Psaki: (02:52)
Zeke, why don’t you kick us off?
Thanks, Jen. Yesterday, the President said he would know more today about what he would do in response to Russian ransomware attacks on US entities. What does he plan on doing?
Jen Psaki: (03:04)
Well, first, Zeke, I think what he intended to convey is that he’s continuing to be updated by his team on a regular and near daily basis. And certainly when they have new information to provide, they provide that to him.
Jen Psaki: (03:15)
So we are continuing to gather details on if this incident occurred with the knowledge or approval of the Russian government. That’s what we’re really digging into at this point in time. And while the intelligence community has not yet attributed the attack and we still don’t have new information on the attribution as of today, the security community agrees that the criminal group are evil, that we’ve talked about a bit in here, operates out of Russia with affiliates around the world.
Jen Psaki: (03:40)
We’ve been in touch at a high level, as you all know, with high-level Russian authorities and counterparts, I should say, regarding this incident, and we’ve continued to send a clear message. If the Russian government cannot or will not act against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will act.
Jen Psaki: (03:56)
In terms of what we will do, I’m not in a position of course to discuss operations. That’s not in our interest to preview those, but the President sent a clear message to President Putin. We’re continuing to send that clear message in our engagements as well.
And on Afghanistan, on the SIV process, any updates on the administration’s [inaudible 00:04:12] to find a third country to host processing of those visas, as well as can you confirm the administration is adding additional staff to help vet those applicants? And how long will that take [inaudible 00:04:23] and how is the administration going to address security concerns among those who are applying?
Jen Psaki: (04:28)
Sure. Well, one of the areas the President will talk about in his remarks this afternoon is certainly ensuring that we are taking care of Afghan nationals who worked side by side with US Forces, and the SIV applicants, as you noted, including interpreters and translators.
Jen Psaki: (04:42)
So we have already dramatically accelerated the processing time for special immigrant visas to bring them to the United States. We’re working closely with Congress. We’re continuing to work closely with Congress to change the authorizing legislation so that we can streamline the process for approving visas, even when they are in a third country. And we have stood up an operation to physically relocate thousands of these Afghans and their families before the US military mission concludes, so that they can wait safely outside of Afghanistan.
Jen Psaki: (05:08)
That operation has identified US facilities outside of the continental United States, as well as third countries. Because of security reasons, we’re not going to outline in detail at this point where those are, but I can confirm that we will be conducting flights of our Afghan allies to these locations in August, so of course, in advance of the timeline of bringing our troops home.
And then we’ll hear in a bit from the President later, but is it an acceptable outcome for the President if Kabul were involved in Taliban [inaudible 00:05:36] widely protected by [inaudible 00:05:40] US government as a potential outcome here of the US withdrawal? Is that an acceptable outcome for the President?
Jen Psaki: (05:46)
Well, firstly, let me say the reason the President is speaking to all of you and the American public today is because he views this as an opportunity to once again communicate to the American people the security challenges he inherited in Afghanistan and affirm why he made the decision he made in April to withdraw our troops and end our involvement in the war.
Jen Psaki: (06:04)
And the question fundamentally facing him was, after 20 years, was he going to commit more American troops to a civil war in Afghanistan? And if we look back 20 years ago, which many people in this room covered when Steve was nine years old, told to us by math, we did what we wanted to do, which was we got the terrorist who attacked us on 9/11. We delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. We degraded Al-Qaeda’s capacity to the point they did not present an active threat to our homeland.
Jen Psaki: (06:32)
He made the decision after a clear-eyed assessment, in part because he has never seen there to be a military end to this war, and also because as we came into office, we had an agreed to timeline. After May 1st, the uptick in violence was coming this summer, the status quo was not sustainable. And we are still continuing to support diplomatically, through security assistance, humanitarian assistance, the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, including a political negotiation process. That’s ongoing that we expect the Ambassador to continue to return to.
Jen Psaki: (07:05)
So we have always anticipated, Zeke, and the President was very clear about this when he made his speech in April, that there would be an uptick in violence, that there would be an uptick in turmoil on the ground. We knew that and we knew the security situation would become more difficult, but he made the decision in part because if you look back at recent history, in 2011, the NATO allies and partners agreed that we would end our combat mission by 2014. In 2014, some argued for one more year. So we kept fighting, we kept taking casualties. If we did not make the decision we did, there would have been severe consequences. That’s why he made it.
Jen Psaki: (07:44)
Go ahead. Oh, go ahead, Steve.
Do you believe it’s still possible that the Afghan Security Forces can repel the Taliban?
Jen Psaki: (07:49)
Well, certainly. As we expected, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are now under real pressure. And that was certainly a part of the discussion the President had with Afghan leaders just two weeks ago, and we’re going to continue to provide funding and ensure they have capacity to maintain the Air Force.
Jen Psaki: (08:07)
And I would remind you that even since we engaged, together with our NATO allies and partners, we have trained and equipped nearly 300,000 currently serving members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. And one of the clear messages that the President sent directly in the meeting he had, and he will continue to convey, is that it is now time for them to be in the lead. They are in the lead as we pull our troops back, and we will continue to support them with security assistance and ongoing training. And we have continued to have the authorities that we’ve long had through our withdrawal later this summer.
And separately, do you have an update on Haiti and the search for the killers of the president there?
Jen Psaki: (08:47)
I don’t an extensive update I will say, Steve. We continue to be engaged of course, in touch through a range of channels, but we don’t have updates at this point. The Haitian authorities are of course leading the investigation, which is of course in its early stages. We’re ready and willing to support Haitian authorities, but we’re going to let the investigation play out.
A follow-up on Haiti, please.
Jen Psaki: (09:08)
What is this administration doing in the midst of this assassination to stand up the Haitian democracy in the midst of this? What is this administration doing?
Jen Psaki: (09:18)
Well, first, I would say that it is our view, and we continue to call for elections to happen this year, and we believe they should proceed. We know that free and fair elections will facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected president. And we certainly continue to support Haiti’s democratic institutions. We will call on all political parties, civil society, and stakeholders to work together in the wake of the tragedy and echo the acting Prime Minister’s call for calm. We have not received an official request for assistance, a formal request, but we stand ready to receive that when it comes in.
Jen Psaki: (09:52)
I’ve got to move on, April, because we have limited time. Go ahead, Jeff. Go ahead, Jeff.
[crosstalk 00:09:55], Jen. Is this speech that’s happening by the President considered the final word by the White House, at least as America’s longest war draws down, or does the President plan to mark this in some other way when all of the troops are [inaudible 00:10:08]?
Jen Psaki: (10:09)
Well, Jeff, I would say that the President will continue to update the American people as commander-in-chief why he’s making choices that are in our national security interest. Today is an example of that and today is an opportunity to communicate again why he made the decision he made and communicate again why it’s in our interests. So I’m not going to rule out if he will or won’t speak on Afghanistan in the future.
Jen Psaki: (10:32)
In terms of plans for our men and women coming back up, I don’t have anything to preview, but we’re not going to have a mission accomplished moment in this regard. It’s a 20 year war that has not been won militarily. We are proud of the men and women who have served, incredibly grateful. The President will note that in his remarks today, how grateful he is for their service and the families who have sacrificed over the last 20 years, and we will continue to press for a political outcome and a political solution. But beyond that, I think we’re going to continue to look for ways to communicate why we make the choices we make.
You mentioned mission accomplished. Has this mission not been accomplished?
Jen Psaki: (11:15)
Well, I would say we did exactly what we wanted to do. What I was referring to, Jeff, is we’re not having a moment of celebration. We’re having a moment where we feel it’s in our national security interests to bring our men and women serving home, and we feel it’s in our national security interests for Afghan forces to be in the lead.
Jen Psaki: (11:36)
We did exactly what we intended to do, and certainly that is something, thanks to the leadership of our military, we have achieved, however, there is not benefit in our view and continuing to fight this war militarily.
Jen Psaki: (11:49)
Thank you, Jen. If the military withdrawal is 90% complete at this point, why wait until August to finish that? Is there an effort to stall because of this situation and because of the conditions that are worsening?
Jen Psaki: (12:02)
I would say, Rachel, that that is under the purview of the Department of Defense and they’re bringing our troops home in a way that keeps them safe. We have not had a single casualty, as I think everyone has noted, and we will continue to keep that as our priority. But in terms of the operational timeline, speed is safety, but we also want to manage our withdrawal in a way that protects our service members, make sure that we are conducting our draw down in a way that keeps that as a top priority.
And then just a quick follow-up, is the administration considering granting visas to vulnerable women in the region, including prominent activists, politicians, or journalists?
Jen Psaki: (12:41)
We maintain a range of contingencies and plan for a range of operational options, but I don’t have anything to preview on that front.
Jen Psaki: (12:50)
Speaker 1: (12:50)
Jen, thank you. If it turns out that the Afghan forces are not adequate and the Taliban has a complete takeover, would the President consider sending US troops back into Afghanistan?
Jen Psaki: (13:01)
I’m not going to get into a hypothetical. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Speaker 1: (13:03)
[crosstalk 00:13:03] another question on something you briefly mentioned yesterday. The President said he would deliver a message to Putin, which he already did last month. So when he said that yesterday, did he mean he has a new message for Putin, and under what circumstances will he deliver that?
Jen Psaki: (13:19)
I think in the context of the Q&A, he meant I’m not going to provide to you an update of the briefing I just received.
Speaker 1: (13:27)
But he said he had a message to deliver.
Jen Psaki: (13:29)
That was the context of how he answered that question.
Jen Psaki: (13:31)
Go ahead. Go ahead, Jackie.
Thanks. Thanks, Jen. On ransomware, in terms of the Kaseya hack, does the administration consider this to be an escalation given that it didn’t attack one entity, but hundreds of entities? And does the US consider it to be critical infrastructure in any way, given how it hampered transactions for grocery stores and that kind of thing?
Jen Psaki: (13:55)
Sure. Well, first I would say critical infrastructure, broadly speaking, would perhaps take out an entire economic sector in the country. But-
Jen Psaki: (14:03)
… take out an entire economic sector in the country, but that doesn’t mean we don’t take every cyber attack, every ransom attack, incredibly seriously. As it relates to the impact here or how we’re evaluating it I should say, there has been an escalation of ransomware attacks over the course of the last several years. It’s been a growing and escalating problem that even predates president Biden and it’s not just the United States, it’s something that’s happening around the world. We know it’s not going to be turned off with a light switch. It’s not an up and down. We know that this needs to be ongoing engagement. We’ll have to assess over six months and 12 months what our success looks like. That’s how we’re looking at our impact as it relates to the cyber threats.
Speaker 2: (14:44)
In the conversation with Russia about enforcing this red line that the president drew at the summit, what concrete asks have we made of Russia in terms of cracking down on actors that are within that state and clearly are attacking our companies?
Jen Psaki: (15:02)
Sure. I would say the president hasn’t minced words and should he speak with President Putin again, who he just questioned, he will convey the same message, which is if you do not take action to crack down on criminal actors in your country, even if the government didn’t know, we will. We’ve reserved that option too and that continues to be his clear message.
Speaker 2: (15:23)
Is there a timeline though on that? Have we given Russia two weeks to do something?
Jen Psaki: (15:28)
I’m not going to preview that for you all.
Speaker 2: (15:30)
I wanted to go to the meeting yesterday between the Chicago mayor and the president. Can you talk at all about the request that she made of the administration in order to crack down on crime in that city? There was a report that she requested some federal support. Did that involve troop presence in any way?
Jen Psaki: (15:47)
I don’t have a summary of the conversation in that regard. I don’t know if that’s something they’ve read out from their ends. From our end, what the president conveyed to Mayor Lightfoot is that he will continue to work with her in partnership and work with cities around the country to address the rise of violence and specifically the rise of gun violence, is predominantly the driver in Chicago. He also reiterated that as the department of justice had announced just a few weeks ago, Chicago is one of the cities that will be a beneficiary of these groups that will go and help directly crack down on combating gun violence and gun trafficking, something that we are doing in about a half a dozen cities across the country. He also reiterated his continued efforts at the federal level to crack down on the illegal passing of guns. There has been a great deal of funding that has been provided already to the city of Chicago, Cooke County specifically and certainly some of that can be used to address crime as well.
Speaker 2: (16:53)
How is the DOJ’s strike force going to specifically interrupt the networks that are trafficking these guns?
Jen Psaki: (17:01)
They’re going to work directly with the city. We’re doing these strike forces in about five cities around the country and they want to work directly with them to use legal authorities to crack down on illegal gun trafficking and work in partnership with law enforcement authorities in the cities and add that additional heft and resources.
Speaker 2: (17:22)
Lastly, is there any push to fund more efforts to equip police departments? The White House position was that Republicans defunded police, obviously the Biden ministration has talked a lot about the budget proposal for the cops program, but there’s been some pressure that the administration hasn’t vocally enough talked about the spike in crime.
Jen Psaki: (17:44)
Well, I would say the president gave an entire speech on it and will continue to speak about what he’s doing. A big driver of the rise in crime is gun violence, a personal passion of his for decades. I will say that there are a number of components. I know you referenced the budget, but the president called for a $300 million increase in funding for the cops program. That’s up from 237 million in the last budget passed by President Trump, to 537 million. He also calls for an increase of 753 million over 2021 levels to federal law enforcement agencies, includes ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It also includes $10.2 billion an increase of 465 million over 2021 enacted for the FBI. Go ahead Steve.
Can we go back to Haiti, just for a second Jen? Are you in a position to describe or detail some of the assistance the US is standing ready to offer Haiti?
Jen Psaki: (18:36)
I think we have to wait to see what their formal request is and we stand ready to respond rapidly to whatever their needs are on the ground, but they are the best equipped to assess that.
Can you describe how the president views security and instability in Haiti, vis-a-vis American interests today? I ask that because the president in 1994, when he was a Senator, comparing the situation in Haiti to the then ongoing Bosnian war in which he said something to the effect of, you call it a God awful thing to say, but he said, Haiti could sink into the Caribbean sea or rise 300 feet in the air and it wouldn’t matter to American interests. Does he stand by that view today or has he changed his view on Haiti?
Jen Psaki: (19:15)
I would say first, the fact that he is now sitting as president of the United States, he issued a statement in his voice yesterday about the horrific killing of the president and he’s made clear to the administration and administration officials that we stand ready to assist in any way they need, whether it’s in the investigation or other federal assistance we can offer from here. Sends you a clear message about his care and concern for the people of Haiti. Go ahead, Kelly.
The administration and the president has in some way, included in the calculus on Afghanistan, the American public’s view that it’s time to bring US forces home. Is the president believing that the American people would be satisfied with Kabul falling with threat to women and children there and with some ill-defined numbers about how many of the Afghan interpreters, translators, support, are able to be removed safely from the country? Does the president feel the American people factored those risks in to that judgment about bringing troops home?
Jen Psaki: (20:16)
At the end of the day Kelly, the president feels that the American people elected him to serve as commander in chief, make decisions that are in our national interest. It doesn’t mean they’re always easy and it doesn’t mean there aren’t drawbacks to the decisions that he makes, but he is not going to ask another generation of kids to go and serve in Afghanistan, in a war that he does not feel can be won militarily and that is the core driver of his decision here.
On REvil, you’ve mentioned that it’s now the assessment that the administration that they were responsible and that part of their criminal enterprise is working outside of Russia. You mentioned that the US is in touch with high level Russian entities. Is there also outreach to specific locations where our cyber resources know their actors are at work? Is that happening as well?
Jen Psaki: (21:03)
I used that context because I think it’s important for people to understand that even though the cybersecurity community has assessed it was REvil, we know they operate in different parts of the world. Even as we’re directing and we’re having conversation largely about Russia’s knowledge, as we assess and before we make an unofficial assessment by the United States government, we look at that, but certainly as concerns arise, we’d certainly be in touch with countries as relevant. Of course, yeah.
Speaker 2: (21:34)
Thanks. On voting rights. The Supreme Court’s upheld the voting laws in Arizona. Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the latest voting rights bill. What specifically can the president and the White House do, to increase voting access without filibuster reform?
Jen Psaki: (21:49)
First I would say that, one, there are a number of announcements being made by the Democratic National Committee today, which is most appropriate for them to address that the vice-president will be elevating. You’ve also seen that we’ve taken steps from our department of justice to use a legal action where relevant and where the law allows for, to push back on and take action in states where legislation is making it more difficult or where laws are making it more difficult for people to vote. We also believe, very much, that empowering and engaging activists and creating grassroots movements, something that the vice-president is continuing to play a very prominent and prevalent role in doing, is also a part of how we’re going to work to fight legislation and fight actions to suppress voters around the country. Certainly the president would love to sign a piece of voting rights legislation into law. He looks forward to doing that, but he also knows that there are a number of levers from the federal government that we should continue to use and he’s not waiting to have the legislation on his desk.
Speaker 2: (22:54)
One more on the Olympics. Fans have been banned from attending the summer games. Is it your assessment? Is it still safe for US athletes and has there been a determination on whether the first lady will be attended?
Jen Psaki: (23:05)
Sure. I would say the president supports the Tokyo Olympic games and the public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff and spectators. He has pride in the US athletes who have trained for the Tokyo games and will be competing in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit. The government of Japan has stressed that public health remains a central priority as they prepare to host the games and we’ve stayed in close contact with the Japanese government throughout the planning process and on related public health measures. We’re well aware of the careful preparations, including the public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff and spectators that the government and international committee has undertaken, which is why, as we’ve said, we support the games moving forward. In terms of the first lady we’re still assessing the feasibility of the first lady attending and our advanced team arrives in Tokyo later this week.
Can you clarify one point on Afghanistan? I guess it’s off of Kelly’s question, but you said that you all met many times and there was a decision process in drawing down our presence in Afghanistan, yes?
Jen Psaki: (24:08)
That we met many times? I’m not sure what you mean by that.
Well, you have discussed this. There is a plan in place. The question naturally is whether or not at the end of the day, you’re accepting the fact or the possibility that the Taliban could indeed take over Afghanistan.
Jen Psaki: (24:24)
Well, Brian, I again will refer you to intelligence assessments and the fact that the president asked for a clear-eyed assessment at the beginning of this process and what I can convey to you clearly is why he made the decision. That’s also what he’ll be delivering an entire speech on just this afternoon. Okay. We’ve got to go on. Go ahead, Mike.
Again, Afghanistan. You and I and a lot of the people in this room will remember early 2009 when the vice president expressed his opposition to the way that war was being conducted and his efforts to try to pull back then. He largely hasn’t changed his position over the time, if anything, gotten more opposed to it. I guess at the end of the day, does the president think this war was worth it and will he tell the American people that today, what he thinks about the worth of having conducted this two decade war?
Jen Psaki: (25:18)
Well, you’ll hear the president talk about today is one, of course, that he is proud of the men and women who served and he is grateful to the sacrifices that have been made over the last 20 years. He will also reiterate, as I’ve talked about a little bit, the fact that he believes the United States did what we went to Afghanistan to do. Get the terrorist attack who attacked us on 9/11, deliver justice to Osama Bin Laden, root out the terrorist threat so that Afghanistan could never be used as a base from which to attack the United States and our allies. He also will talk about what he’s done, what we’ve done as a country, to help prepare and assist and provide security assistance and humanitarian assistance to the military in Afghanistan, but also to the people of Afghanistan.
Jen Psaki: (26:03)
What you’ll also hear him say, which I think is important for the American people to hear, is that there would have been significant consequences had we chosen not to bring our troops home. In April if he had instead announced that the United States was going back on this agreement made, the US and allied forces remaining in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, the Taliban would have begun to target our forces. The status quo was not an option. Those are difficult decisions you make as commander in chief. You’re right. His view has been for a decade or more, consistently, that he does not feel this is a war that can be won militarily. He does still believe and support the people of Afghanistan, the future of the government of Afghanistan. He supports a political process, something that our ambassadors are continuing to engage in and he will continue to provide and advocate for providing and he can make this decision as president, humanitarian and security assistance to the people there.
Jen Psaki: (26:59)
This is not a speech that is going to give a grade. This is a speech that’s going to explain clearly to the American people why he made the decision, what the consequences would have been, what assistance we’re going to continue to provide, how we’re going to help the brave interpreters, translators, who served alongside our forces and also what the counter-terrorism factors are here, including the changing threat from Afghanistan, but including the need to take our CT resources, counter-terrorism resources and put them in parts of the world where we have the largest threat. That is no longer Afghanistan. That is other parts of the world. Whether it is Syria, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, that is where Al Qaeda and ISIS is greater and that’s where as commander in chief, he needs to put our resources.
Fair to say that he thinks this should have been done a decade ago?
Jen Psaki: (27:53)
I think his view is well publicly known, but again, he has made the decision because he is now president and he assessed what is in our national security interests.
Jen Psaki: (28:03)
… he is now president and he assessed what is in our national security interests. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (28:05)
Shifting gears to a different topic. A USA Today investigation published yesterday revealed that the FBI played a role in locating Princess Latifa of Dubai just before a yacht was raided in the Indian Ocean in 2018. The capture of the princess has outraged human rights activists given the accounts that she was trying to flee her father’s oppressive rule. Two questions, was the FBI assistance appropriate and does it raise concerns that the assistance, even if provided unwittingly, forced Latifa’s return to the family she sought the flee?
Jen Psaki: (28:38)
I understand your question, I’m just not going to have anything to offer you from here. So I’d refer you to the FBI.
Speaker 3: (28:43)
Another question. Multiple media outlets, including POLITICO, ABC reported yesterday that the White House is seeking to have the bipartisan infrastructure plan on the center for as early as next week. Can you confirm that timeline as being the one sort by the White House right now?
Jen Psaki: (29:01)
Sure. Well, as leader Schumer has said he wants to move on both the bipartisan plan and the budget reconciliation resolution, or we’re now calling the Build Back Better plan during the upcoming July, August Senate session. So our understanding is that the process could begin as early as the week of July 19th, given that committees are still finalizing legislative text for both the budget solution and the bipartisan bill. We of course support and would like to see it move forward as quickly as possible. But it would be a mistake to think of July 19th as anything more than the opening of a window, not a deadline. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (29:36)
Thanks, Jen. Two questions. One, Al Sharpton said earlier this morning that he and other civil rights leaders would press president Biden to do more than just put boots on the ground for voting rights. That he’d push for a legislative solution and one that works through or around the filibuster. What does the president plan to say in response?
Jen Psaki: (29:56)
Well, we’ll wait for the meeting to take place and then they’ll come out to the stakeout. But I will tell you, the president agrees that a federal legislation, this is important part of protecting voting rights and people’s right to vote, which is a fundamental right in this country. He agrees with that. He also believes there’s a range of levers that can be used from the federal government concurrently. And then he’s not going to wait either, even as federal legislation, even as we’re determining what the path forward looks like. But we’ll see how the meeting goes. And certainly that will be a central topic.
Speaker 4: (30:26)
One more question. Does the White House worry that elevating voting rights to a Democratic issue, a Democratic platform issue will give Republicans more fodder to make partisan attacks against voting rights?
Jen Psaki: (30:39)
No. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (30:42)
If I can piggyback off my [crosstalk 00:30:43] with the benefit of hindsight, does the president feel that the war with Afghanistan was worth it?
Jen Psaki: (30:49)
Again, I think it’s important for people to understand that as president of the United States, he’s not here to give grades. He’s here to provide context to the American people on why he made the decision he made to bring men and women home from serving. Why it’s in our national interests, our counter-terrorism interests and the interests of our positions around the world. I understand why you all are asking the question, but I think this issue, the complexity of this issue over 20 years deserves more context than that.
Speaker 5: (31:19)
And then to follow, were there or are there consequences for the Taliban in terms of just the encroachments that they have to make in the country?
Jen Psaki: (31:27)
Consequences from the United States? Well, I would say that right now, what we’re supporting is a political process and one where we are hopeful that that can move forward to have a more lasting solution and bring peace and prosperity to the country over the longterm.
Speaker 5: (31:42)
And does that mean engaging with the Taliban as a sort of-
Jen Psaki: (31:45)
Well, as you know we have an ambassador who is engaging or playing a role in these negotiations. Ultimately it’s, of course, between the Afghans and members of the Taliban. But we are engaged and supportive of that political process. Go ahead. Oh, go ahead, Nancy.
Thanks. Shortly after the company MDD was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, China blocked the app resulting in a plummeting in value and American investors losing money. Does this concern the president and more broadly, does the president agree that regulators should block companies that do not adhere to US auditing regulations from IPOs?
Jen Psaki: (32:20)
Well, I’m not going to speak, comment on this specific company from here, or speak to actions that could be taken independently by the SEC. Broadly, the US will continue to ensure we remain the destination of choice for investors and companies seeking investments around the world and always protecting American’s data and our national security. We do think it’s essential that all companies that list in the US adhere to high standards of transparency and disclosure and welcome companies that meet those standards. But beyond that, I’m not going to have additional. Go ahead. Yeah, go ahead, Nancy.
On COVID, when will the White House make a decision on reopening travel to certain nations and what will it be based on? Will it be based on vaccine thresholds or there’s a certain country that you want to open travel to first?
Jen Psaki: (33:04)
Well, as you know, Nancy, there are working groups that are currently engaged and in touch about the criteria that will need to be met in order to reopen. We certainly understand and know that this is a point of frustration for a lot of people around the world, including people who are separated from their family members. And we put these working groups together so they could work together directly to assess what the criteria should be on when the travel can be reopened. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (33:33)
[inaudible 00:33:33] now recognizing Claude Joseph as the leader of Haiti?
Jen Psaki: (33:36)
We recognize the democratic institutions of Haiti, and we are going to continue to work with them directly. But we have been calling for elections this year and we support those proceedings.
Speaker 6: (33:49)
And do you think those elections should be delayed from September?
Jen Psaki: (33:50)
We believe they should proceed this year.
Speaker 7: (33:52)
Has the president reached out to the interim prime minister? Has he reached out or does he plan to reach out?
Jen Psaki: (33:57)
I don’t have any calls that he has not reached out. I don’t have any calls to preview for you now. Go ahead. Go ahead, Rachel.
The president’s reference to door-to-door campaigns for the vaccines sparked kind of a backlash. Missouri’s governor is saying he doesn’t want that. The Republican lawmakers saying basically stay off our lawns. Can you say who is doing the door knocking and where?
Jen Psaki: (34:20)
Sure. Well, let me first say that this has been ongoing since April and the best people to talk about vaccinations are local trusted messengers, doctors, faith leaders, community leaders. Do you have something, April, you want to share with the group?
Speaker 8: (34:34)
Jen Psaki: (34:34)
Okay. So those are the people who are the trusted messengers around the country. And we believe that we need to empower these individuals to continue to work in communities, to make sure people know that these vaccines are safe, that they can save lives. And so these are grassroots voices across the country. They are not members of the government. They are not federal government employees. They are volunteers. They are clergy. They are trusted voices in communities who are playing this role and door knocking. And this is one of the tactics that we’ve used over the last couple of months, but we’ve seen, so it’s not the only factor, but I would say that we’ve seen in some states, Alabama, the adult vaccination rate increased by 3.9%. 149,000 additional adults got their first dose [inaudible 00:35:21]. In Florida, the adult vaccination rate increased by 4.4%. In Georgia, the adult vaccination rate increased by 3.5%. So in our view, this is a way to engage and empower local activists, trusted the members of the community.
Is it working and who are these volunteers reaching other than, say, shut-ins? Because people don’t even have to get off their couches to see who’s at their door these days.
Jen Psaki: (35:47)
Well, that’s fair. Depending on the technology in your house, I guess, I suppose. But I think what’s important for people to know, and I appreciate you asking me the question, is that the federal government does not have a database of who’s been vaccinated. That is not our role. We don’t maintain a database along those lines and we have no plans to. We do know where there are rates of vaccination across the country. And we know, as I just elicited in some of the data, that there are tactics that are powerful and impactful. And so I will say the thing that is a bit frustrating to us is that when people are critical of these tactics, it’s really a disservice to the country and to the doctors, faith leaders, community leaders, and others who are working to get people vaccinated. This is about saving lives and ending this pandemic. Go ahead.
Was that me?
Jen Psaki: (36:35)
Go ahead, Yamiche. Again, go ahead. I’m sorry. And then I’ll go to you right in front of her. Go ahead, Yamiche.
So I have two questions. The first is you’ve said over and over again that the United States believes election should happen in Haiti this year. People in Haiti are so scared, they can’t leave their homes, they can’t go to the grocery store. How does the United States think elections can happen when people are too afraid to even go to their front doors?
Jen Psaki: (36:56)
Well, Yamiche, first we understand and see the trauma that obviously the horrific killing of just 30 [crosstalk 00:37:05] I understand that I didn’t say anything otherwise. But I’m saying what’s happened over the last 36 hours. We again stand ready to provide support, provide assistance in any way that is formally requested by the government there. We’re looking forward to hearing from them on what they would request and how we can help them through this period of time. And we called for an election this year, or we’re continuing to call for one because we feel that supporting democratic institutions, the democratic process is something that would be in the interest of the people of Haiti. That’s why we’re advocating for it. We stand by to provide assistance, to provide help in any way possible, as we long have, even before yesterday.
And the people of Haiti including human rights, activists, clergy members on the ground, they’ve been saying over and over again for months now that elections aren’t possible. I’ve talked to people specifically who say that they’re disappointed in the president’s stance on Haiti, that they see him as continuing failed policies that go back to his predecessor, former President Trump. What’s the president’s response to Haitians who say they are disappointed in him and they don’t think that he’s really listening to their cries, which are saying that elections can not happen?
Jen Psaki: (38:10)
I would say that the message to the people of Haiti is we stand with you. We want to provide assistance, whether that is assistance requested by the government or assistance that is needed for the people of the country to prosper in the future. And that is the president’s view. Go ahead. And we’re going to have to keep going. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (38:30)
Right now, on Haiti, right now-
Jen Psaki: (38:33)
I’m sorry. I’ll come back to you. I apologize. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (38:36)
Right now there are two politicians who are claiming, in Haiti, the role of prime minister, Claude Joseph and Ariel Henry. How does the US think that this impasse should be resolved? And are you worried that it could lead to further instability?
Jen Psaki: (38:51)
Well, first we continue to support Haiti’s democratic institutions. And we have been in touch with the acting prime minister and we echo his call for calm. But I would again reiterate that’s one of the reasons we have called for elections this year, and we believe that they should proceed. Of course, we are worried about and closely monitoring the security situation, the stability in Haiti, and understand that even before yesterday, but certainly as a result of yesterday, that is even more of a concern for the people who are living in the country.
Speaker 9: (39:22)
But right now you are not backing any one one to two?
Jen Psaki: (39:27)
We support the institutions and we are continuing to call for elections this year. Go ahead, Monica.
Jen, on voting rights, the president indicated teammate tour the nation and talk about that. Give a major speech on the topic. That hasn’t happened yet. Should we expect it still to take place or what can you tell us about that?
Jen Psaki: (39:43)
Sure. Well, I would say first that the president felt it was important to meet directly with civil rights leaders and talk to them about how we can work together to continue to push for federal legislation, continue to use every lever in the federal government to make voting more accessible across the country. But certainly he conveyed he wants to speak to the country about voting rights and how he’s going to address it moving forward. I don’t have any scheduling updates for you today, but he certainly continues to plan to do that, I should say.
Speaker 10: (40:11)
Jen Psaki: (40:13)
Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead. I apologize. Thank you.
Speaker 10: (40:15)
Thank you. There are hard feelings among government officials in Tide Bay after the White House COVID team posted and then deleted a tweet that had an image of Taiwan’s flag along those other nations getting vaccine doses from the United States. Was this tweet a mistake in the first place and if not, then why was the tweet deleted?
Jen Psaki: (40:41)
So this was an honest mistake that was made by the team handling graphics and social media, and should not in any way be viewed as a shift in official US policy. When we recognized the mistake we removed the tweet. So we did exactly as you said. We remain committed to our one China policy based on the Taiwan Relations Act, the three joint communiques and the six assurances. Go ahead. Go ahead, Eugene. Go ahead.
Thanks, Jen. It seems pretty clear-
Jen Psaki: (41:06)
And you just got engaged, I think. Random aside. But congratulations. Yes. We’re just a lot of news you can use in here.
It seems pretty clear that on voting rights a legislative fix isn’t going to happen, right? Republicans have made it clear they’re probably not going to get on board, you’re not going to get 10 votes. And the president has talked about being open to filibuster reform if it’s used kind of too much. And I guess advocates keep asking you guys, what does that look like? Is there a time period because they feel like they’re running out of time and they’re not seeing a lot of urgency on the president’s part.
Jen Psaki: (41:41)
Well, I would say the president is meeting with civil rights leaders today because he feels there is urgency on determining how we can most effectively work together to move voting rights forward. Access to voting rights, I guess I should say, forward. And he’s an optimist by nature. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be president of the United States. So he continues to believe that there should be a pathway forward for federal legislation-
Jen Psaki: (42:03)
To believe that there should be a pathway forward for federal legislation. He did say, as you just quoted, he has made comments in that regard, and certainly obstruction and the fact that there is an unwillingness to move forward in making voting more accessible to people across the country is something that he’s mindful of and he believes, and we have said before, could change the conversation in the Senate. We’ll see what happens, but he will continue to press for federal legislation moving forward.
Speaker 11: (42:32)
Jen Psaki: (42:32)
Oh yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 11: (42:33)
I’ve talked to Reverend Sharpton quite a bit, and one thing that he is really interested in seeing and hearing from the President is a carve-out for voting rights and police reform for the filibuster. Is that something that the White House is going to be pushing for? Is the President calling Joe Manchin and other holdouts on filibuster reform?
Jen Psaki: (42:49)
The President’s position hasn’t changed. We certainly understand the position of Reverend Sharpton and others, and the President though shares their desire, commitment, interest in moving forward on voting rights legislation and moving forward on initiatives across the country that can help make voting more accessible to people across the country. I’m sure they will have a robust discussion today.
Jen Psaki: (43:11)
Speaker 12: (43:12)
Jen, I have a question about the executive order on non-compete mandates. Businesses use those mandates because it helps protect their investment in employees, and it also helps protect their intellectual property. So will there be any kind of carve-out or anything in this executive order to protect businesses? And what is the White House’s messages to businesses that are concerned about this executive order?
Jen Psaki: (43:35)
Well, I’m happy to follow up with our team and see if there’s anything specifically to your very good question. I will say that the overarching objective with the executive order is to make sure the President is encouraging competition in industries around the country. It doesn’t sound right to most people that there are three shipping companies that are dominating the market and upping and increasing costs for suppliers, small businesses, people across the country. That doesn’t sound right or fair because it isn’t. So that’s what the President is trying to address.
Jen Psaki: (44:07)
In terms of the specific carve-out you’re asking about, I’m happy to ask our team if there’s anything more.
Jen Psaki: (44:11)
Speaker 13: (44:12)
Just on voting rights, Vice President Harris as we speak is announcing the $25 million expansion of the DNC’s I Will Vote initiative. This is just one of the examples that Democratic committees are launching in terms of voter protection. Can you speak about the White House’s collaboration with these committees on this strategy?
Jen Psaki: (44:29)
Well, again, I referred specifically to the DNC because it’s most appropriate for them. I know the Vice President’s making this speech, but to outline the specific details given they’re the political arm here. So they can get into all the specific details, but it’s just an example of how every lover of the Democratic party and the federal government is working and looking for ways that we can make voting more accessible around the country. But they’d be the most appropriate entity to outline details.
Speaker 13: (44:56)
But is the White House specifically involved? Were they were of this strategy and what was the collaboration between the two?
Jen Psaki: (44:59)
Yes, we’re aware of it, but again, they’re the political arm, so they’re the most appropriate body to outline details.
Jen Psaki: (45:04)
Speaker 14: (45:05)
Hi, Jen. Thanks. I wanted to ask you about the global tax negotiations. I know that Secretary Yellen is supposed to be in Italy tomorrow about it. Can the White House credibly guaranteed to its counterparties in that agreement that you can get something through the Senate and the US will actually be able to enact the legislation that the deal requires?
Jen Psaki: (45:25)
Well, that’s something we’ve proposed and we’re going to continue to press on. And this agreement wouldn’t be the case, wouldn’t be happening without the leadership of the United States, of Secretary Yellen, and others in the government. So certainly it is very much our desire, our interest and our commitment to deliver on that promise.
Jen Psaki: (45:42)
I think you’re going to have to gather in a moment here. Go ahead, one more. One more. Okay.
Speaker 12: (45:48)
Thank you, Jen. You may have seen yesterday the former President filed a class action lawsuit against three social media companies. And one of the targets as part of that lawsuit is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. He would like to see that particular aspect of the law ruled unconstitutional.
Speaker 12: (46:06)
In January of last year, Joe Biden, when he was running for president, spoke to The New York Times and he said Section 230, should be revoked, revoked immediately. Does he stand by the comments that he made to The New York Times last year?
Jen Psaki: (46:22)
I have not spoken with him about Section 230. I remember those comments and I remember The New York Times article. I’m happy to venture to do exactly that.
Jen Psaki: (46:31)
I will say that as it relates to these lawsuits, it’s a certainly a decision for the platforms to make. I think it’s safe to say that the President spends a lot less time obsessing over social media than the former president.
Jen Psaki: (46:44)
With that, thank you everyone. Happy birthday, Steve.
Speaker 15: (46:51)
Open up the east room to the open press?
Jen Psaki: (46:58)
I don’t think we can do that, but we tried to expand as much as we could.
Speaker 15: (46:58)