Jun 4, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript June 4
June 4, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She was joined by Brian Deese, Director of National Economic Council, to discuss the May jobs report. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (01:41)
Hi everyone. Happy Friday. We have a special guest with us today on Jobs Day, Brian Deese, our Director of National Economic Council, who will give some brief remarks on the jobs numbers and take a few questions and then we’ll proceed with the briefing.
Brian Deese: (01:59)
Great. Hi, everybody. Glad to be with you today. You all heard from the president earlier today with his perspective on the May employment report. I won’t repeat what he said, but I just did want to provide a couple of contextual points and a little bit more looking under the hood of that report from an economic perspective. A couple of things that I think were notable from our perspective. First, beyond the top line strong job gains, and the now consistent pace of over 500,000 jobs a month for the last four months, we saw in May the largest one month decline in the longterm unemployment rate since 2011. So in about a decade. That measure is measuring people who have been out of work for at least 27 weeks. So for more than half a year, and that number fell by 431,000 this month.
Brian Deese: (03:06)
This is a really important indicator, certainly for those of us who have been tracking the economy closely over the course of last several years and into and through the pandemic, because we know the economic evidence that those who are long-term unemployed tend to have the hardest time getting back into the labor force and eventually find new employment. And so this substantial reduction is an important indicator of the health of the labor market and something that is obviously very good news for those people. And also I think for the economy writ large.
Brian Deese: (03:44)
Second is on wages. And the president touched on this, but we saw average weekly earnings rise a half a percent this month, consistent with the wage growth that we saw last month. We saw analogous data on aggregate compensation come out earlier this week. And this again is good news for the American worker. And also consistent with what the president was talking about when he went to Cleveland last week around looking at the broader goals of our economic recovery to drive toward full employment and to put our economy in a situation where we see sustained job gains, but also wage gains for American workers.
Brian Deese: (04:32)
Third point is just how we see in this jobs report, some of the impact of the American Rescue Plan and the specific elements of that work that were designed to try to address challenges that we face. Obviously beyond the direct vaccination effort, two of the key elements of the American Jobs Plan were around trying to provide the support necessary to get schools open. And then in particular, to provide the support for childcares and childcare centers to actually get more childcare centers open, because we know that the more centers are open, the more slots there are. Safe childcare environment is a key element of how families and parents think about how to sustain work in the post-COVID environment.
Brian Deese: (05:16)
In May, we saw employment increased by 103,000 in state and local education. That is a direct result of seeing more schools open, more educator jobs, good news for those people who are getting back to work, but also for the broader economic recovery. We saw 18,000 jobs added in child and daycare services. Again, you can draw a direct line between the resources that were provided in the Rescue Plan for those purposes and the results we’re seeing now. I would also provide the context on that, despite that progress, we’re still down around 800,000 state and local education jobs since February 2020. And we’re still down 135, 000 jobs in childcare.
Brian Deese: (06:03)
And I think that that’s a reminder of the depth of the crisis of this pandemic, the ways that we have to go. But also I think importantly, a reminder of why it is that we are focused on passing a Rescue Plan that would sustain support over the course of this year. That the rescue plan was designed to not just provide support for a day or for a month, but over the course of the year, as we understood and the need to continue to provide support to continue to build back to a stronger foundation.
Brian Deese: (06:35)
Fourth, I think that we’re looking at this employment report in the context of a number of contemporaneous economic data points. First, probably the most important that provides, I think, additional reason for economic optimism is that this report was a snapshot of where we were on May 12th. And perhaps most evocatively and just how quickly things are changing, where we too have been doing this briefing on a day in that week, we all still would have been masked. Things are changing very quickly. And in fact, since that period, an additional 21 million adults age Americans have gotten fully vaccinated. And so we’re making progress even since this snapshot in time.
Brian Deese: (07:28)
And secondly, we’re looking at this job growth in the context of the overall health and growth of the economy. We saw earlier this week the OACD significantly increase its economic growth forecast to 6.9% for 2021. In that report, citing that the American Rescue Plan and that the United States fiscal response likely adding three to four percentage points to GDP this year and positioning the U.S. as the president heads to his first G7 as the only G7 country, the only OECD country in a position where our future growth prospects are actually stronger today than they were pre pandemic in January 2020. That’s only true of the United States, not any other developed country.
Brian Deese: (08:18)
The final point that I will make is a point that you will hear me repeat when I come back and we talk more about jobs numbers in the future is that we are in an unprecedented situation. There’s a lot of uncertainty in our economy. We never put too much weight on any individual data point, be it the jobs report or any other report. We expect there to be ups and downs. We expect there to be bottlenecks as we turn this economy back on. And our focus, the president’s focus is on executing an economic strategy that is working. We see that in the data from today, but to be patient and think to the long-term about what the American economy needs and the American workers need as well. So with that, happy to take some questions.
Speaker 2: (09:07)
Thanks, Brian. The president’s remarks earlier, he mentioned the administration have looked to efforts to address some of the supply bottlenecks. Industry experts say, semiconductors, that’s a multi-year process to fix that. So what is the administration going to do to fix some of those bottlenecks that are raising prices right now?
Brian Deese: (09:26)
It’s a great question. So first of all I would say, this is an issue that the president has been focused on from the campaign and early on upon taking office. One of the things that the pandemic has exposed is the degree of vulnerability in supply chains and the need to have a deliberate strategy to try to build resilience in our supply chains. That’s why the president actually on February 25th signed an executive order tasking in all of government approach to try to look at supply chain challenges across a set of four critical areas. One of them being semiconductors, but also to launch a longer-term effort to look at supply chain vulnerabilities and opportunities across sectors of the economy.
Brian Deese: (10:13)
That executive order had a hundred day timeframe associated with it, which is coming due at the end of this week. You can expect to hear more from us on this topic early next week. But in short what I would say is, look, on a lot of these issues, there is no immediate short term magic bullet fix. We have been at this issue of semiconductors now for some time. We’ve been spending an enormous amount of time with industry participants, up and down the semiconductor supply chain. We’ve identified some very concrete solutions that we need to take and thinking about a long-term strategy to actually build resilience so that we’re not left vulnerable the way that we have been to supply chain challenges in the future. Some of that is working on bipartisan legislation to actually fund a dedicated strategy to build out a domestic semiconductor industry in the United States. We’re making a lot of progress on that front and are optimistic there.
Brian Deese: (11:13)
The other thing that we will be looking at is some areas where we have seen over the course of the last hundred days, bottlenecks emerge that are more short-term in nature. That may not connect to a longer term geo- strategic or strategic supply chain issue. But our blockages, in part, because we’re seeing demand come back in some areas faster than people anticipated. So whether that’s in housing and construction materials, or in transportation and logistics, those are areas where building on the all of government approach that we have in place, we’re going to intend to really zero in on, are there pragmatic issues that we can help facilitate?
Brian Deese: (11:56)
And some of that is bringing the right industry actors around the table to really understand where those bottlenecks are, and whether there are ways to unstick them. At the end of the day, a lot of that issues are transitory, associated with turning an economy back on and supply and demand mismatches that the market will work through. But we want to be doing everything that we can to try to help facilitate practical solutions where they exist. We’ll have a lot more to say about the specifics of that, but I think that hopefully gives you context.
Speaker 3: (12:24)
So last month President Biden assessed that federal unemployment benefits had not contributed, or he didn’t see much evidence to the more lackluster numbers. Is that still his assessment for this month and given how many states are now going to end them through the month of June with the president’s comments earlier today about them expiring in 90 days, should other states consider ending them sooner, or could that money be used elsewhere?
Brian Deese: (12:50)
I’d say a couple of things about that. The first takeaway from this report is that we’re seeing really robust job growth. And we’re seeing, in fact, historic job growth in the context of historic economic growth. We find ourselves, the American economy now, the economy is growing faster than any other major economy. Jobs are growing faster than any other major economies. That’s the immediate context.
Brian Deese: (13:18)
With respect to the UI benefits, you heard the president earlier today. That program was designed as a temporary lifeline. The UI program itself provides a critical support network to the American people and the American economy. The temporary boost is slated to now expire in 90 days. And as the president said, that’s appropriate.
Brian Deese: (13:48)
With respect to some of the state changes, just the important context which I think was implicit in your question, but just to be clear is that none of the states have actually eliminated any benefits yet. Some states will initiate that process over the course of the next several weeks. But in many cases what we’re talking about is states making changes to benefits for four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks before the expiration that will happen under current law.
Brian Deese: (14:18)
So as we look at where we are in the economy, we see strong job growth, 500,000 jobs a month on average, last four months, the U.S. outpacing every other major economy in the world. And we see reason to really focus on, what are actually going to be the drivers to accelerate this recovery and then sustain it for the longterm? And that’s where you’ll see the president’s continued focus is on finishing the job on vaccinations, delivering benefits to get schools opened, to get childcare available. Now is the right time to focus on what are those investments that are actually going to sustain us, not just through a rapid recovery, but into-
Brian Deese: (15:03)
That’s not just through a rapid recovery, but into a full employment and the productive investments that you see in the jobs plan in the [inaudible 00:15:09].
Speaker 4: (15:09)
[crosstalk 00:15:09] my question was similar to Monica’s, so I’ll ask another one. How do you explain the drop in construction jobs last month? Wasn’t this a sector that was actually revving up?
Brian Deese: (15:26)
Yeah, so it’s a great question. I think if you look under the hood in employment, in the establishment survey, what you see in May is job gains very broad-based across almost all sectors, job gains. We did see a reduction in construction. I think that the first thing I would say to that is that in any given month, you see some movements up and down, and so you never want to read too much into one month, but you saw construction jobs increase in the prior month. We saw manufacturing jobs decline in the prior month and up this month. I think, so you don’t want to read too much into one individual month.
Brian Deese: (16:05)
But I do think that some of this is connected to the prior question, where we are, as this economy recovers, we’re seeing some supply chain bottlenecks. We’re seeing some mismatches between supply and demand. And as we anticipate those to be short-term, they’re still causing bottlenecks, and we’re seeing that in different sectors of the economy. I think some of that may be what’s going on in the construction sector as well.
Brian Deese: (16:33)
So, I think, bottom line, we saw broad job growth over the course of May, and I think that that’s the most important takeaway. And at the same time, you can expect the administration to be really laser-focused on those places where we are seeing those bottlenecks, trying to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can in a practical level to try to help unstick those temporary issues.
Speaker 5: (16:55)
I just want to clarify really quickly because you didn’t say yes or no. Does the President still feel that these enhanced jobless benefits are not discouraging people from finding jobs?
Brian Deese: (17:06)
The President… I’ll just restate what the President said today, the President believes that the temporary unemployment benefits and the temporary boost to those benefits has provided a critical lifeline, that that lifeline was designed to be temporary and to expire in about 90 days, and that’s appropriate. And I would also just put that in the context of that is a very short-term issue, where most states, you’re talking about a set of weeks. And really, as we look forward and are focused on what are the things that are really going to drive the durability of this economy going forward, you’re going to see the President continue focus like a laser on the vaccination program. The President identified and recognized before coming into office that there would be no economic recovery if there wasn’t a viable vaccination strategy. We’re seeing the progress in the vaccination strategy help to drive economic gains helped to make it possible for more people to feel comfortable and capable to go back to work. And we anticipate that as we continue to succeed on that front, we continue to make investments in things like school opening and childcare and otherwise, we’re going to be able to sustain this progress, going forward.
Speaker 5: (18:19)
[crosstalk 00:18:19] infrastructure?
Brian Deese: (18:23)
We will have a status report on that later this afternoon, so stay tuned.
Jen Psaki: (18:26)
More to come.
Brian Deese: (18:27)
Jen Psaki: (18:28)
Thank you so much, Bryan. Let’s do this again next month. Okay. Couple of items for all of you. Starting this weekend, as we noted the other day, we will, and with collaboration support, we will be launching our national month of action. So that is exciting. We’ve outlined a lot of those specific details, but it’s starting this weekend. So wanted to note that.
Jen Psaki: (18:50)
Also wanted to give you all an update that today the US government delivered one million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the Republic of Korea. The friendship and alliance between our two countries run deep, especially in times of great need and hardship, as was noted when the President hosted the South Koreans here just a few weeks ago. This was done in order to ensure the safety and readiness of the US and ROK military forces. And today, thanks to a whole of government effort, we are delivering on that promise.
Jen Psaki: (19:21)
I would just note again, that our plan, our commitment to deliver 80 million doses, is five times more than any other country and 13% of the US supply. And we’re committed to doing that by the end of June.
Jen Psaki: (19:34)
Also would note, the Vice-president and his traveling to Mexico and Guatemala next week, in her role overseeing diplomacy toward the Northern Triangle and Mexico. She lands in Guatemala on the evening of June 6th. She’ll be on the ground there until the evening of June 7th, before flying to Mexico. Then she’ll be in Mexico until the evening of June 8th. She’ll meet with the President of Guatemala, the President of Mexico, as well as community leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and US embassy personnel. And I’m sure they’ll do many readouts from there.
Jen Psaki: (20:07)
The week ahead, on Monday, the President will meet with a NATO Secretary General [Stoltenberg 00:20:13] at the White House. The President and the Secretary General will discuss the June 14th NATO summit in Brussels and many issues on the NATO agenda, including reinforcing transAtlantic security in the face of challenges from Russia and China. They will also discuss adapting NATO to address threats like cyber attacks and climate change, while continuing to ensure a more equitable sharing of responsibility among allies. As we’ve said, revitalizing our alliances is a priority for this administration, and our alliance with NATO is a big part of that.
Jen Psaki: (20:43)
As you all know, on Wednesday, the President and First Lady will also be traveling to the United Kingdom for their first stop, for their first overseas trip. And we’ll have one of the members of the national security team, hopefully at the highest level, we’re working out schedules, on Monday, to do a full preview of the trip for all of you. Last thing I would note… I think that was it, actually. Zeke, go ahead.
Thanks, Jen. Looking ahead to that trip, the backend [inaudible 00:21:11] had some comments today where he was suggesting that he was not expecting any concrete breakthroughs. I was hoping you would describe what the President hopes to get out of that meeting. Is the President going to commit to raising issues like the imprisonment of [inaudible 00:21:25] the imprisonment of American citizens in Russia directly when [inaudible 00:21:29] face to face?
Jen Psaki: (21:29)
Well, first I would say that the President never holds back in raising human rights issues. The detainment of activists with the Russian president, and certainly as our readout made clear when he spoke with him directly, he didn’t hold back in that conversation. I don’t expect he will when they meet in two weeks at the summit.
Jen Psaki: (21:51)
In terms of the focus of the summit, I think we’ll have more to preview on Monday, but as I’ve noted in here previously, I think the President expects to raise a number of issues, including Ukraine and what we’ve seen as aggressive behavior at the border by the Russians. He also will raise cyber activity, malign activity, problematic activity, harmful activity we’ve seen take place. Of course, there is the solar winds hacked, but also the ransomware hacks, as we’ve talked about, the actions of criminal groups within a country, there’s a responsibility of the leaders of that country to take action. And there’s no doubt President Biden will be raising that directly in that conversation. I don’t think we’re setting this up to be a meeting where there is going to be an outcome that resolves every issue or every challenge in our relationship. We expect there still to be challenging conversations moving forward, but it’s an opportunity to discuss areas where we have mutual interest, like nuclear security and stability, and also to raise issues where we have concern. And then we expect this to be a forum for that face to face.
Separately, the President just got back from a couple of days at the beach. Heading into the summer travel season, should we expect to hear from the President, encouraging Americans to travel, particularly domestically, as a way to stimulate the economy and to spend their money here at home? As the pandemic seems to be waning and travel does seem to be picking out, is there going to be a pivot on the part of the President, going forward, to encourage Americans to get out there and spend their money?
Jen Psaki: (23:25)
I think the President will continue to encourage Americans to safely get out there into their communities, especially vaccinated Americans who are safer to travel, to go to restaurants, to not wear masks. And certainly, we abide by CDC guidelines as you know, but President went to a restaurant just last weekend with the Vice-president, last weekend on Monday, with the Vice-president. They had a meal, something he hasn’t done a lot of, most Americans haven’t done a lot of over the last year and a half. So certainly, he will lead by action and continue to encourage Americans to take advantage of the benefits of being vaccinated. And for those who are not vaccinated, to get a shot so they can take advantage of those benefits themselves.
And just have one last one for me. It’s Friday, has the President been briefed on the unidentified aerial phenomena report? And is he satisfied with its conclusions? Does he want additional work in that space?
Jen Psaki: (24:18)
Because it’s Friday, it’s always a little wacky on Friday. So let me first say that we know there’ve been press reports about the status of this report. This is a DOD report. And so I’d certainly refer to them on the status of the report, their work with [ODNI 00:24:33] is ongoing. The team’s actively working on it, but it’s not at a conclusion phase, as I understand, and as I think they’ve commented from their building. I will say that we take reports of incursions into our airspace by any aircraft, identified or unidentified, very seriously and investigate each one. Safety and security of our personnel, of our operations, are of paramount concern. There’s a requirement to put out this report, and certainly our appropriate teams are working on finalizing [crosstalk 00:25:03].
The President briefed on it or [crosstalk 00:25:04].
Jen Psaki: (25:04)
I don’t have any update on internal briefings, no. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (25:07)
Thanks, Jen. There seems to be a bit of a shift in tone here, because last month the President was pretty adamant that he did not believe that these enhanced unemployment benefits were playing a role or factoring into people’s decisions not to get back into the jobs market. Today, though, he’s underscoring that these benefits are simply temporary, set to expire in 90 days. So, which is it? Yes or no, does the President believe that these unemployment benefits are playing a role here?
Jen Psaki: (25:30)
Well, I think we shouldn’t lose sight of some basic facts here, which is that those governors who’ve made the decision, as they have every right to do, to pull back on unemployment benefits or not accept them, I should say accurately, that hasn’t even taken effect in any state across the country. So in terms of how we’re evaluating the impact, we haven’t even seen the impact yet. That takes effect in June.
Jen Psaki: (25:51)
It is important for people to understand factually that the President, no one from the administration has ever proposed making these permanent or doing it over the long- term. And sometimes I think that was just an effort to make that clear in the public. So we understand there’s politics at play here. That’s okay. Every governor is going to make their own decision. At the end of the day, what we see as the biggest driving factor is vaccines and individuals being vaccinated, feeling safe to go back to workplaces. The fact that childcare centers have rehired, that teachers have gone back to work, those are all positive signs. And at the end of the day, we’ve created, the President and this administration has created more jobs than any President, any administration in modern American history. So that’s how we see the jobs [crosstalk 00:26:37]
Speaker 6: (26:36)
Based on the data, do you believe that these benefits are having any impact in people deciding not to maybe re-enter the job force right now?
Jen Psaki: (26:44)
Well, again, I think that’s a really difficult thing to analyze, given we have created a historic number of jobs in the last four months, more than any President in modern American history. And the jobs, the UI benefits haven’t even both been pulled back in any state. So it’s a question I’m sure we can have a discussion about in the next couple of months, as we see what the impact is on different states or if that’s a factor, but we think the biggest factors overall are more people getting vaccinated, more people being comfortable and feeling safe going out into the workforce. And that’s where we feel there’s going to be an encouraging upward trend.
Speaker 6: (27:19)
I guess I’m trying to understand what happened in the last month, though, because last month you said you didn’t see any indication of that, when looking through the data.
Jen Psaki: (27:26)
I don’t think we can evaluate the data that hasn’t been applied in states across the country yet. And what we’re really talking about from state to state is governors making a decision to pull back on accepting unemployment benefits for six weeks or eight weeks. That’s it. It hasn’t even started yet. So I would leave it to all of you and your outside analysts to decide whether that is a big factor in terms of economy and data, or whether that is a political discussion we’re having.
Jen Psaki: (27:54)
Speaker 7: (27:55)
Thanks, Jen. Does the White House have any reaction to Facebook’s decision to suspend President Trump for two years? Was this a reasonable consequence for what he said?
Jen Psaki: (28:06)
Well, as always, it’s a decision for the company to make and any platform to make, and clearly they’ve come out and made their decision. Our view continues to be, though, that every platform, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, any other platform that is disseminating information to millions of Americans, has a responsibility to crack down on disinformation, to crack down on false information, whether it’s about the election or even about the vaccine, as we’re trying to keep the American public safe and get more people returned to normal out in society. And I think as we look at it, we learned a lot from President Trump, the former President, over the last couple of years about his behavior and how he uses these platforms. It feels pretty unlikely that the zebra is going to change his stripes over the next two years. We’ll see.
Speaker 7: (28:51)
So does this decision validate what President Biden has repeatedly said about Mr. Trump, which is that words matter?
Jen Psaki: (29:01)
Well, I don’t know that it’s a validation. I think the President isn’t the only one thinks that. Words do matter. Words do have an impact. We saw the impact on January 6th of words on social media platforms. And we’ve seen the impact of words as it relates to disinformation traveling around the vaccine, around election integrity. So of course, we think words matter. This is a decision by a private sector company. We’ll see what their evaluation is a couple of years from now and what other steps they can take, most importantly.
Speaker 7: (29:29)
Jen Psaki: (29:29)
Speaker 8: (29:30)
Jen, our reporting indicates that the Biden administration is considering counter of cyber attacks to stop the ransomware criminals in Russia. How big a factor is the upcoming summit in that decision-making? Is there a concern that if you did that before the meeting in Geneva, it could derail the talks? And if it doesn’t happen before then, what message does it send to Russia after these multiple cyber intrusions?
Jen Psaki: (29:54)
Well, let me first say that we always reserve the option of responding to behavior or actions that are unacceptable and are harmful. And some of those-
Jen Psaki: (30:03)
Are unacceptable and are harmful. Some of those responses are seen and some of them are unseen, and we typically don’t give a timeline on that in a public capacity.
Jen Psaki: (30:10)
But I will also note to you that when the president, when we announced the invitation to have this discussion, it was also in the same time period where we announced the sanctions that we were putting in place in response to harmful actions by the Russian government, right? In response to solar winds, in response to their engagement in our own election.
Jen Psaki: (30:31)
So we expect this is diplomacy and action here, right? We will take action when warranted, sometimes seen, sometimes unseen, we typically don’t predict that ahead of time, and we also will look for areas of opportunity to have a discussion. But we are not having the summit as a reward. We’re not having the summit because we expect to only talk about areas where we agree or disagree.
Speaker 9: (30:55)
In the president’s budget blueprint there’s only about 1.3 billion dedicated to bolstering cybersecurity. Given what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, is that enough? Are there talks that more resources need to be dedicated to this? Or are you thinking more to leave this to the private sector for those companies that we’ve seen that have been impacted?
Jen Psaki: (31:14)
It’s a really good question. I mean, I will say that we know that the ransomware threat is urgent, it’s complex, and it’s been increasing over the last several years. It feels new to us over the last couple of weeks, but it has been increasing rapidly around the world over the last several years. One of the reasons that we have initiated a rapid review internally is because we recognize that threat, and we will assess based on that review what additional needs there are, both from the federal government in coordination with Congress, or from the private sector. That review is focused on the disruption of ransomware infrastructure and actors working closely with the private sector, building an international coalition, of course, which will be a focus of the president… Will be a topic of discussion, I should say, of the president’s foreign trip, expanding cryptocurrency analysis, which we know is a factor given so many of these ransomware attacks are… If ransom is paid, which of course we don’t recommend and don’t advise from the FBI, but it’s often done through cryptocurrency channels, and reviewing our own policies.
Jen Psaki: (32:18)
So that review is ongoing internally with our national security team and we’ll assess what additional needs might be needed.
Speaker 9: (32:25)
Housekeeping last month you said you didn’t have an update, but that you maybe expected the president to get his first physical soon. Do you have anything, any update to provide on that? Should we expect that to happen this summer? Or is there anything else you can give us?
Jen Psaki: (32:37)
It will definitely happen this year, and when he has his next physical, we will provide that information transparently to all of you. But I don’t have a date for you. Go ahead.
Thanks, Jen. Would the president support a commission to investigate the initial U.S. response to COVID-19?
Jen Psaki: (32:52)
A commission in Congress?
Or a presidential commission?
Jen Psaki: (32:56)
I would say if members of Congress have a discussion and want to have a discussion about that, we’re happy to hear from them, but our focus right now, as you know, Peter, is on our own internal investigation or our internal process, I should say, using all of the resources of government, tapping into our data and science experts to see what more we can determine over the next 90 days or less than 90 days about the origins of the pandemic.
Mike Pompeo is now saying that when he was the Secretary of State and he was trying to investigate the origins of COVID-19 there, the NIH folks were trying to suppress what he was doing. So is there any concern from the White House that there may have been people at the NIH who are making policy decisions based not in science, but based on their personal political beliefs or preferences?
Jen Psaki: (33:43)
Well, I really don’t have any analysis of the last administration’s inter-working-
[inaudible 00:33:49] over there and you see how they operate.
Jen Psaki: (33:52)
Here’s what we know, Peter. We know that Dr. Fauci and many members of the NIH team, medical and science experts, because of their work over the last 10 years, we have developed a focus and effort and apparatus to fight this pandemic, and we are grateful to them for their work. Everybody wants to get to the bottom of the origin. Former secretary Pompeo, President Biden, Democrats and Republicans across the board. We all share a concern about the challenge, and that is the intransigence, at times, by the Chinese in providing data and providing information. We share agreement on that. We all want to get to the bottom of what happened here.
You mentioned Dr. Fauci. There have been these emails that have come out through a FOIA request that make it seem like we knew that he had his hands full at the time trying to figure out what to do. But it seems like there were times that he was saying one thing in email and then coming to this microphone and saying something else. If that is the case, and if that the U.S. policy posture at the time, should he be held accountable?
Jen Psaki: (34:55)
Well, I’ve talked a little bit about Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Fauci has been out doing several interviews himself and answering questions on these emails and questions that you all may have. Dr. Fauci is a renowned public servant, a civil servant, I should say, career civil servant. He’s overseeing the management of multiple global health crises, and attacks launched on him are certainly something we wouldn’t stand by. I understand there’s interest in the emails. He’s answered a lot of questions on the emails. I don’t think I’m going to have much more to add on them from here.
Do you think the attacks are political against Dr. Fauci?
Jen Psaki: (35:29)
I’m going to let Dr. Fauci speak to his own defense of his emails from 17 months ago before this president even took office.
Okay. And then finally, does President Biden had a position on gain-of-function research?
Jen Psaki: (35:45)
Well, as Dr. Fauci has actually said repeatedly, we’ve never approved any funding for gain-of-function research in Wuhan. I know that’s I think why you’re asking the question. I believe some may have been approved or there was funding approved during the prior administration. There’s a framework I should say. This is not meant to be a criticism of funding and how it’s approved through different NIH programs, but I would send you to them to give more of an explanation of the funding mechanisms.
And just since you mentioned Dr. Fauci again, can you imagine any circumstance where President Biden would ever fire him?
Jen Psaki: (36:15)
No. Go ahead.
Just to follow up a little bit on Russia. I know you said repeatedly that this is not a reward to Vladimir Putin, but what can you do in terms of stage management to make sure that it doesn’t become that? I mean, become a platform for him to offer alternate facts, alternate analysis of history, of what’s going on, and also provide a way for him to damage the opposition within his own country. Are you thinking through that issue, or how will you address that?
Jen Psaki: (36:50)
Well, one thing is we’re going to bring all of you with us to report on what he says and doesn’t say, and fact check what he says or doesn’t say. The other piece is President Biden, as you’ve heard him talk about, has known, has engaged with president Putin in the past throughout his career, and he is never one to hold back on areas where he has concern, areas where he feels the actions of the Russian government or Russian leadership are hurting the United States, and he certainly has no intention of holding back during this meeting publicly or privately.
Jen Psaki: (37:21)
But at the end of the day, our job or our focus is on moving toward a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia. There are areas where we can work together. We’ve talked a little bit about we renewed New START early on in the administration for five years. That’s an area we can work together. There are ongoing negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal. They just finished their fifth rounds of discussions. Russia is a member of the P5+1. We can have a discussion there.
Jen Psaki: (37:51)
At the same time, we also feel that no country has responsibility not to harbor criminal individuals who are launching ransomware attacks, and that will certainly be a part of the discussion as well. So you’re right, when we have conversations with leaders we disagree with, where we have some adversarial components of our relationship, it is important to send the message that we’re not validating their actions. In fact, we’re calling them out on it. But it is also an opportunity, face to face, to raise those issues, and also to hopefully move toward a more stable and predictable relationship moving forward.
On infrastructure is the corporate tax hike that was originally proposed, is that pretty much dead now? Can we expect to see it in reconciliation? AIs there anything else that president Biden plans to offer when he speaks with the Senator today?
Jen Psaki: (38:42)
Well, since you gave me an opportunity, Trevor, I think there’s an important note here. One is that we didn’t talk a lot about the book line taxes that the president talked about yesterday, that we’ve talked about a little bit yesterday, the 15% tax. That these companies were asking these companies, or we think these companies should pay that pay no tax, no tax. That was in his original American Jobs Plan proposal. It was in the lengthy fact sheet I’m sure Reuters wrote many stories about. So that was a component that we didn’t have a lot of a public debate about, but it has been something he talked about on the campaign, it’s in our budget, it was in his American Jobs Plan proposal.
Jen Psaki: (39:21)
In terms of the corporate tax increases, that was also proposed, and certainly has been more of a public component of our discussion. That’s something he continues to believe. Corporations can pay more money. That that’s a way to fund his bold ideas. There are a lot of ideas that he wants to move forward on, whether it’s extending the child tax credit, universal pre-K, proposals that he has put forward in the American Families Plan, which we are looking forward to having a continued discussion about, and there are also a range of pay fors he has proposed.
That 15% minimum that you just brought up, did you bring that up because that’s something that Yellen is pursuing on the international [crosstalk 00:39:58]?
Jen Psaki: (39:57)
No, separate. I’m glad you asked that question. Separate issue. I know it’s confusing because the 15 15. Separate issue. There is a discussion as you noted on the global stage about a global minimum tax. But this is a proposal the president talked about on the campaign trail, he proposed in his American Jobs Plan, and also in our budget, that would have companies that didn’t pay any tax wouldn’t allow them to pay zero tax, and so we see it as a separate entity. We still believe the tax rate should be higher than that, as the president has proposed, for a corporate rate. Go ahead, Josh.
Can you conclude the sense of what your expectations are for this discussion. Is it by phone, for instance, with Senator Capito?
Jen Psaki: (40:39)
Oh, sure, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Are we in your decisional process or point for the president?
Jen Psaki: (40:46)
Sure. So, they will be talking by phone, president and Senator Capito this afternoon. He’ll also be talking with Congressman DeFazio, and we will be doing readouts of those conversations. They’re happening this afternoon, as we speak, perhaps. But we will provide readouts. I’m not going to obviously prejudge conversations, but I would say for the conversation with Senator Capito, they’ve had good faith discussions. There are areas where, of course, the president has priorities where he’d like to see more, including more investment, but also areas including electric vehicle investments, rebuilding veteran’s hospitals, and that’s part of the discussion as well. As well as pay fors.
Jen Psaki: (41:28)
As Trevor just asked about, but as we talked about about yesterday, what the president put forward, he looked at all of his tax proposals, and what he put forward are ways to pay for an infrastructure proposal that shouldn’t cross any bar or line for Republicans in the Senate who say they won’t touch the 2017 tax plan. So I think the question really on that front is do you think these companies should pay no tax at all? Or 15%, which is very viable, supported by 85 or 84% of Republicans in the country.
Do you believe he’s running out of time to try to reach a deal, or is there runway left?
Jen Psaki: (42:04)
There’s runway left. He’s going to have these discussions. There are Democrats and Republicans who are talking with each other. We’re going to engage with them as well, and continue to have a discussion with a range of interested leaders in Congress about how we can come together to make a historic investment in infrastructure.
Jen Psaki: (42:22)
There are some realities of timelines, including the fact that Congressman DeFazio is leading the markup of key components of the American Jobs Plan next week, key infrastructure components where there is a big overlap. There is a lot of interest and excitement by many Democrats in Congress about that. So it’s not unlimited, but we have an opportunity. He’s going to talk to Senator Capito this afternoon. We’re going to see how those conversations go. We’re going to keep a range of pathways open to move these bold ideas forward.
[inaudible 00:42:51] talked about the supply shortage issue. Can you talk about any particular types of supplies that we’re talking about with regards to, for instance, the construction job gains that were pretty sluggish. What are we talking about here, lumber? What are the powers the government has to try to adjust those?
Jen Psaki: (43:09)
Well, I know you’ve covered this closely, as have others. Lumber is certainly one of the areas, and we’ve seen an impact on the housing market in part because of a shortage of some of these supplies that’s having an impact on new builds, that’s then having an impact on the pricing for homes that have been around a longer period of time. I know you know this, but just to catch everybody else up. So, okay. So, we’ve seen that impact, and we have been doing this 100 day review certainly looking at how we can address those challenges and issues through the role of the federal government is what we’ll talk about when we have more details to share, and hopefully that will be next week.
Is there a way that you can address supply shortages?
Jen Psaki: (43:52)
I’m not going to get too ahead or ahead at all of where we will come down in our final rollouts of our supply chain review process. Go ahead, [inaudible 00:44:02].
Speaker 10: (44:02)
Is the president expecting a counteroffer during this conversation with Senator Capito today?
Jen Psaki: (44:07)
I think the president’s expecting they’re going to have a discussion. Part of negotiation is seeing how you can come closer to each other. He’s obviously come down quite a bit in what he originally proposed, and hopefully they’ll have more they can add to their proposal. But we’ll see. But it’s a discussion, not an exchange of papers.
Speaker 10: (44:24)
Well, you described Wednesday as a discussion too, but President Biden made a counteroffer to them on Wednesday.
Jen Psaki: (44:30)
I think that might be over-formalizing the discussion. There’s a discussion about where there might be areas of agreement. Then obviously, she may have to take things back. He may have to discuss on our ends with Democratic leadership. So, it’s more of a discussion and where we can find common ground, hear each other out, and we’ll see if this continues to be a viable path forward, and we’ll continue to pursue a range of paths.
Speaker 10: (44:56)
Thank you. And on these ransomware attacks, does the president view those as a national security threat?
Jen Psaki: (45:02)
I certainly think the-
Speaker 11: (45:03)
… security threat?
Jen Psaki: (45:03)
I certainly think the President views those as a rising national security concern in an area where we need to continue to keep our focus, keep our assets, focus on energy and brainpower on what we can do to address it. That’s why we launched this rapid review, to take a look at these four areas of focus, including our own approach through the U.S. government, including how we work with the private sector, including cryptocurrency, and also including what role we can have on the global stage. So certainly this is a priority to him and an area where we will be spending a significant amount of time in the coming months.
Speaker 11: (45:46)
Okay, and my last question just on the unenhanced unemployment benefits. You said that you can’t really make a determination because no states have actually cut them off yet, the states that are pulling out of the program early, but if nothing has changed, shouldn’t you be able to maintain the President’s pretty unequivocal position last month that they are not encouraging people to stay home?
Jen Psaki: (46:06)
Well, if we had that concern, we would be ending them. We’re not. I mean, there’s still seven million people who are out of work, and we’re talking about $300 benefits for three more months. I think the point I was trying to make, and I think Brian was trying to make, is that the Governors who have made the decision, which they have every right to do to pull back on these benefits, are really talking about having them for six weeks or eight weeks less than we would already intend to have them. So I think the question is, do you think Americans given seven million are still out of work or more than that could benefit from eight more weeks or 10 more weeks of these $300 unemployment benefits? Our view is they can and they should, and that’s an extra helping hand we can give to millions of people across this country. Some Governors disagree. That’s okay. At the end of the day, in early September, these benefits will no longer be a part of the plan.
Speaker 11: (46:58)
Jen Psaki: (46:58)
Speaker 12: (46:59)
One quick thing, housekeeping on Russia.
Jen Psaki: (47:02)
Speaker 12: (47:02)
And then I have something on Israel. You mentioned a few moments ago that the press will be with the President when he attends the summit in Geneva. Can you commit that he will have a press conference side-by-side with President Putin as previous U.S. Presidents have done?
Jen Psaki: (47:19)
I don’t know what the format will look like at this point in time. I can certainly commit that he will communicate and speak to all of you, but I don’t know what the format looks like yet.
Speaker 12: (47:27)
I mean, obviously, a press conference would be preferable, but I think-
Jen Psaki: (47:32)
He will answer questions, I don’t know what the format will look like at this point.
Speaker 12: (47:37)
Given the history, the fairly recent history of side-by-side press conferences between the U.S. President and the Russian President, it certainly would be an opportunity for us to ask the kinds of questions of both Presidents that I think our President might want to answer.
Jen Psaki: (48:00)
Well, I know that we will make President Biden available to all of you and I certainly hope my Russian counterparts make President Putin available to all of you as well. I don’t know what the format will look like at this point.
Speaker 12: (48:10)
On Israel, we’re a couple of clicks closer to the formation of the new government. Have there been any developments here in President Biden’s interaction with either the existing government or the new government in formation?
Jen Psaki: (48:24)
No, not at this point. I think we’re going to allow for that process to move forward, and as you know, it may be a little bit more time before the final formation is coming.
Speaker 12: (48:33)
What is the plan for his interaction with the new government should it be formed?
Jen Psaki: (48:37)
Well, we have a long and abiding relationship, strategic relationship with Israel, and that will continue to be the case no matter who is leading the country.
Speaker 12: (48:45)
Will you call Prime Minister Bennett upon the formation of that government?
Jen Psaki: (48:49)
I don’t have any calls to predict for you, but certainly he will continue to engage with his counterparts in Israel and many countries around the world.
Speaker 12: (48:56)
And lastly, were you able to nail down whether or not he had actually ever met Naftali Bennett before?
Jen Psaki: (49:02)
You did ask that question. I’m sorry. I did not ask him. I will follow up and see if I can find that out. Well, Naftali Bennett, you would remember the years he was the Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Netanyahu. We’ll have to do a little data tracing here. Yeah. Okay, go ahead.
Speaker 13: (49:18)
Thanks, Jen. On the vaccine announcement from yesterday.
Jen Psaki: (49:21)
Speaker 13: (49:22)
Can you give an idea at all of how many doses we can expect? Are there going to be monthly surplus shipments going out to other countries, and would they follow the same 25%-75% breakdown? Are there any discussions about that?
Jen Psaki: (49:34)
80 million doses by the end of June.
Speaker 13: (49:36)
But in future months? I mean, it was said yesterday we can expect more of this summer.
Jen Psaki: (49:40)
That’s right, and we’re going to continue to provide part of our supply to the global community, but I don’t have anything to predict for you beyond that.
Speaker 13: (49:47)
Great. And on infrastructure, can we expect the President to meet with Senators Romney and Manchin at all as one of the pathways that the White House is exploring?
Speaker 11: (49:57)
Look, I think as I alluded to a little bit earlier, the President’s certainly open to and interested in continuing to engage with a range of members who have an interest in making a historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure, modernizing our roads, rails, and bridges, and preparing us to compete over the longterm. I know those are two of the members who have expressed that publicly, so we will see what the future days hold.
Speaker 13: (50:19)
And just on the President’s trip, can we expect them to meet with the Pope at all? There’s been some reporting out there that he might be meeting with the Pope.
Jen Psaki: (50:26)
That’s surprising. I don’t think you can expect that on this trip. Go ahead.
Speaker 14: (50:31)
Thanks, Jen. Again on the issue of the COVID vaccines, can you talk a little bit about the timing? I know you said about the end of June whole thing, but how soon can the other countries start expecting to receive these vaccines? And also how are you prioritizing which countries will get them first?
Jen Psaki: (50:47)
Sure. Well, first let me say, I mentioned a little bit earlier, 80 million by the end of June. Obviously, 25% of those are going bilaterally to countries. We’re going to get those doses out, those 25 million, as quickly as we can, and we’ll provide you updates as those doses go out. So I had an update this afternoon about the doses that went out are okay and we’ll continue to have more updates on those doses. The additional doses, the 75%, which are going through COVAX, we’ve put out our prioritization of the regions that those will be going to. And part of our focus right now is on the Herculean logistical challenge of getting these vaccines out to the right places.
Jen Psaki: (51:28)
This is one of the reasons that we’re doing a large percentage of them through COVAX, because of their capability to do exactly that. But just to step back and as a reminder, this is not just shipping these doses overseas. This is also ensuring that we can get them to the right places, that they have the ability to put them in arms, that they are at the right temperature, and so these are all factors we’re considering as we’re determining how to get them out and the pace in the weeks ahead.
Speaker 14: (51:54)
One more. The U.S. and the EU have discussions on lifting tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Jen Psaki: (52:01)
Speaker 14: (52:01)
I’m just wondering if you have an update on what progress, if any, has been made in those talks, and if you expect this issue to come up during the G7.
Jen Psaki: (52:08)
Well, we certainly expect that our G7 partners will raise a range of issues of concern to them and a focus, and certainly I’d let them speak to what those are, that tariffs could be one of them. I don’t have anything to predict for you or preview for you. I have to wrap this up in a minute. But Jerry, I’m just going to go to you, because you haven’t been here since I’ve been here.
I have not.
Jen Psaki: (52:27)
Okay, good to see you.
Good to see you. A parochial Buffalo question.
Jen Psaki: (52:32)
The Canadian border has been closed for a very long time.
Jen Psaki: (52:35)
There’s a lot of concern about that in all the Northern Tier States right now, and Prime Minister Trudeau has said that he has to get 75% of the people in his country vaccinated before the border reopens. That being the case, would the United States consider opening the American side of the border first, before Prime Minister Trudeau would do that, or does there have to be a binational agreement?
Jen Psaki: (53:02)
Well, I’ll first say that as it relates to borders Canada or Mexico, we really rely on the guidance of the CDC and our health and medical experts. So in terms of how they look at the data and information, I would point you to them and whether they would do that in a preliminary fashion or not. Certainly, any discussion about reopening a border would be done in part through diplomatic channels. But we really are relying and waiting on the guidance of the CDC before we make any next decision there on the border.
How much concern is in the White House about the fact that here we are, it’s the summer travel season, there’s a lot of concern in those Northern border states about the economic impact as well as the personal impact on people and couples that may be separated by the border.
Jen Psaki: (53:46)
Yeah. We’re very sensitive to that, Jerry, and we certainly know that many people want to not just get back to normal, but be able to travel, be able to see loved ones, some living on different sides of the border, be able to go to restaurants and shop and even do things along those lines. And we’re eager to get back to normal, whatever that means, including reopening the border. But we have a responsibility during a global pandemic, which we’re still fighting every day, to rely on the advice and guidance of our medical experts. I think we have one question here.
Speaker 15: (54:19)
Jen, does the administration remain committed to waving vaccine patents at the WTO? Today, the EU submitted a counter proposal saying that they don’t want to do that. And will the President be pushing for this issue at the G7?
Jen Psaki: (54:31)
Our position hasn’t changed on that. I think we have one question. Okay. Hello to our virtual Melissa. Hi, Melissa. Thanks for joining us.
Hi. Thank you. Right now, approximately 16 million public school students in the U.S. live in homes that lack high-speed internet. The President released a plan to ensure that people in rural areas will have internet access, but reports show that 13.6 million urban households also do not have internet. Many can’t afford it. What does the administration plan to do to increase home internet service for families in low income urban neighborhoods?
Jen Psaki: (55:08)
Well, that’s a great question, and Melissa, thanks for joining us, and hopefully you weren’t waiting too long. I will say that in the President’s American Jobs Plan he’s proposed, we’re proposing to expand universal broadband access across the country to urban and rural areas to level exactly that playing field, to ensure that kids in cities as well as in more rural communities where there isn’t as expensive broadband access have access. And we’ve seen over the last year and a half during the pandemic what a disparity it creates, both economically, but for kids who are just trying to get an education. The Vice President, as the President announced in his joint session address, is leading this effort. It’s an important part of the negotiation, and fortunately one where Democrats and Republicans have a lot of agreement about the need to move forward on expanding access to broadband.
Jen Psaki: (55:57)
Thank you so much. I apologize for this being short today. I have to go do some regional TV, and anyone who has follow-up questions come up or email me and we’ll talk more. Thank, everyone.
Speaker 14: (56:07)
Thank you, Jen.