May 10, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript May 10
May 10, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She was joined by homeland security advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall who talked about the cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline. Psaki also addressed the situation in Israel. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:01)
Happy Monday. Today, we are joined by Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor, Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall, and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, Anne Neuberger. I know you all know who they are so I’m going to skip the introduction so we have more time for questions. We have very limited time, but we’ll try to take as many as possible.
Jen Psaki: (00:23)
With that, I’ll turn it over to Liz.
Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall: (00:27)
It’s great to be with you today. Thank you, Jen. I have an update for you on the Colonial Pipeline and what the Biden administration is doing to provide assistance through a whole-of-government effort. On Friday evening, May 7th, Colonial Pipeline reported that its pipeline system had been subject to a ransomware cyberattack. Colonial chose to shut down its pipeline operations as a precautionary measure and to ensure that the ransomware could not migrate from business computer systems to those that control and operate the pipeline. We’ve been in ongoing contact with Colonial and the President continues to be regularly briefed on the incident and our work.
Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall: (01:08)
Colonial is currently working with its private cyber security consultants to assess potential damage and to determine when it is safe to bring the pipeline back online. Thus far, Colonial has told us that it has not suffered damage and can be brought back online relatively quickly, but that safety is a priority given that it has never before taking the entire pipeline down.
Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall: (01:31)
Beginning on Friday night, soon after we learned of the shutdown, the White House convened an inter-agency team that included the Department of Energy, which is the lead agency for incident response in this case, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, the FBI, the Department of Transportation Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Defense and other agencies. To give you a sense of what we’ve been doing together since that first meeting, we have met throughout the weekend, the Department of Energy Information Agency, or EIA, is in contact with state and local agencies to assess current supply and impacts due to the shutdown. DOE has also convened the oil and natural gas and electric sector utility partners to share details about the ransomware attack and discuss recommended measures to mitigate further incidents across the industry.
Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall: (02:32)
DHS’s CISA is preparing a release to go to the broader critical infrastructure community to ensure it has visibility into the ransomware attack and it’s taking appropriate measures to protect its networks. Colonial is responsible for safely returning the pipeline to service. Our role in the federal government is to take proactive steps to analyze the impacts of the shutdown on the delivery of gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel in states that are dependent on the pipeline and to identify federal options for alleviating supply shortfalls should they develop.
Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall: (03:09)
For example, to help address potential supply disruptions, the Department of Transportation issued an hours-of-service waiver yesterday, which provides greater flexibility to drivers transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products across 17 states, as well as the District of Columbia. Right now, there is not a supply shortage. We are preparing for multiple possible contingencies, because that’s our job, especially on the Homeland Security team and considering what additional steps may be useful to mitigate any potential disruptions to supply.
Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall: (03:46)
This weekend’s events put the spotlight on the fact that our nation’s critical infrastructure is largely owned and operated by private sector companies. When those companies are attacked, they serve as the first line of defense and we depend on the effectiveness of their defenses. To improve the cyber security of our critical infrastructure, the Biden administration has already launched a high-priority initiative to collaborate with our private sector partners to harden our defenses and to build our nation’s resilience. That is a perfect segue to my colleague, Anne Neuberger, our deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technologies. Thanks.
Anne Neuberger: (04:28)
Thank you, Liz. Good morning, everyone. Building on Liz’s comments, as you know, on Friday, Colonial shut proactively its pipeline operations as a precautionary measure to ensure ransomware would not spread to its sensitive operational networks. In response, we’re taking a multi-pronged and whole-of-government response to this incident and to ransomware overall.
Anne Neuberger: (04:52)
First, we’re actively engaged with the company and offered support as needed to restore their systems. Right now, they have not asked for cyber support for the federal government, but we remain available to meet their cyber security needs. Second, we’re aggressively investigating the incident and its culprits. As part of their work today, FBI released a flash alert with indicators of compromise and mitigation measures once infected.
Anne Neuberger: (05:19)
The FBI identified the ransomware as the DarkSide variant, which they’ve been investigating since October of last year. It’s a ransomware-as-a-service variant where criminal affiliates conduct attacks and then share the proceeds with the ransomware developers. We recommend all critical infrastructure owners and operators use the indicators that came out in the FBI flash to protect themselves. If other entities are infected, please notify the FBI.
Anne Neuberger: (05:50)
Third, the government is convening stakeholders more broadly to ensure everybody has the information needed to protect themselves and to rapidly share information. This morning, the Department of Energy convened calls with the electricity and oil and gas sectors to keep them informed. The Departments of Energy, Transportation and DHS and others will be sharing further indicators of compromise with the sector Information Sharing and Analysis Centers or ISACS. The Department of Energy will be holding additional calls with critical infrastructure sector owners, as well as state and local leaders to ensure everyone has the latest information about how to protect themselves. Fourth, we’re taking the threats posed by ransomware seriously with several initiatives. First, we’ll focus on industrial control systems. Critical infrastructure, as Liz noted in the United States, is largely owned and operated by the private sector, which determines their cyber security protections are applied to their systems. Under that context, in mid-April, the administration launched a new public-private initiative to enhance the security of critical infrastructure systems and improve visibility across their operational control systems, the systems on which all Americans depend.
Anne Neuberger: (07:06)
The Department of Energy had the lead for the first 100-day sprint focused on the utility sector. We will follow with follow on sprints with natural gas pipelines, water, and other sectors. The administration encourages all private sector owners of critical infrastructure to focus on improving cyber security and the government remains open and willing as a partner to support those efforts.
Anne Neuberger: (07:27)
Second, in tackling ransomware, we’re working to disrupt ransomware infrastructure. The FBI recently worked with international partners to disrupt two particular strains of ransomware, the Emotet and Netwalker strains. More recently, DOJ has established a Ransomware Task Force to ensure it can better investigate and prosecute ransomware actors. Third, CISA is leading a counter ransomware sprint, which is focused on helping small and medium-sized companies who are often the targets of ransomware, better protect themselves. Finally, we’re pursuing greater international cooperation. Ransomware affects countries around the world to address ransomware, because transnational criminals are most often the perpetrators of these crimes. They often leverage global infrastructure and global money laundering networks. Indeed, to combat the exploitation of virtual currencies that are often used for payment in ransomware, the US Treasury has also been leading international efforts, including driving development and adoption of virtual asset standards under the Financial Action Task Force.
Anne Neuberger: (08:33)
With those updates, I welcome your questions, turning it over to Jen and Liz. Thank you for your time today.
Jen Psaki: (08:40)
Okay. Aamer, kick us off.
Thanks, but just to clarify something, has Colonial paid any ransom and is there any advice on that? Then secondly, is there any timeline for when Americans should be certain that this is going to be taken care of? People are getting ready, Memorial Day’s not that far away and everyone’s concerned about the gas prices. What’s the timeline of when this thing is going to be under control?
Anne Neuberger: (09:11)
Absolutely. I’ll speak to the first and then I’ll turn it to my colleague, Liz, for the second. First, we recognize that victims of cyberattacks often face a very difficult situation. They have to just balance off in the cost benefit when they have no choice with regard to paying a ransom. Colonial is a private company and we’ll defer information regarding their decision on paying a ransom to them.
Did the administration offer any advice on whether or not to pay a ransom?
Anne Neuberger: (09:38)
Typically, that is a private sector decision and the administration has not offered further advice at this time. Given the rise in ransomware, that is one area we’re definitely looking at now to say what should be the government’s approach to ransomware actors and to ransoms overall. Liz.
Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall: (09:57)
On the issue of gas prices, as I indicated right now, there are no supply disruptions. The Department of Energy’s Information Agency, the EIA, is doing the analysis right now about potential supply disruptions and what price effects that could have. We’re working with other agencies to consider how, if necessary, we can move supplies to a place where it might be needed if it turns out that there is a shortfall.
Jen Psaki: (10:22)
Thank you, Jen. My question is just a follow up on what Aamer was asking. Has the White House broadly considered advice for companies who are victimized in such incidents going forward? Is there any advice that you’re considering when it comes to paying ransom in the future?
Anne Neuberger: (10:44)
That’s a really good question. The first and most important advice is secure your systems. In this case, the ransomware that was used is a known variant. The FBI has investigated many cases of this in the past, as I noted beginning in October. The first and most important thing is to ensure that systems are patched and that cyber security is maintained at the level needed in a given network. We want to see ransomware not be successful and that begins with greater resilience, particularly in critical infrastructure networks.
Another question, you mentioned perpetrators are usually transnational criminals. Do you have any information on whether this particular incident has any ties to Russia or other Eastern European criminals?
Anne Neuberger: (11:29)
At this time, we assess that DarkSide is a criminal actor, but that is certainly something that our intelligence community is looking into.
Can I ask a little bit more about DarkSide? What do we know about them? Is there any retaliatory measures that have been taken or are being considered by the US in response to this or a pending investigation that you mentioned that dates back to October?
Anne Neuberger: (11:51)
Absolutely. I mentioned that DarkSide is a ransomware as a service variant. It’s a new and very troubling variant where it’s essentially provided as a service and the proceeds are split. In that way, it’s something that we’re particularly troubled …
Anne Neuberger: (12:03)
… seeds are split. So in that way, it’s something that we’re particularly troubled by. And I mentioned as well that the FBI has recently worked with international partners to take down and disrupt ransomware infrastructure. We expect that will be a continued focus area to make it far more difficult for these actors to pray on their victims.
Speaker 1: (12:18)
Even though you’re treating it as a criminal act, are you saying it’s state sanctioned? Or is there a suspicion that it state sanctioned? Or did you just don’t know?
Anne Neuberger: (12:25)
As I mentioned a moment ago, currently we assessed Darkside as a criminal actor. But of course, our intelligence community is looking for any ties to any nation state actors. And if we find that further information, we’ll look into it further.
Speaker 1: (12:37)
[inaudible 00:12:37] a particular country right now for [crosstalk 00:12:39]-
Anne Neuberger: (12:39)
No, we are not.
Jen Psaki: (12:40)
Thanks very much both of you for doing this. First thing, just to clarify on what you said on ransomware. The FBI has for years advised people not to pay it. I didn’t quite hear you say that, so I wondered whether or not you’re reconsidering the advice the FBI has given across many administrations. And both you and Liz both mentioned the concern that the ransomware may have revealed some kind of data that would then move over to the operational side, or put malware in that could move to the operational side. We don’t have a lot of understanding about what that concern is. Did you see in the early parts of the investigation that there was malware in the IT side that could be moved to operational? Was it simply that they froze up their ability to bill and move the fuel? Which has been one theory. Or that they simply learned information that would allow the ransomware operators to later on be able to get access to the main operational side?
Anne Neuberger: (13:47)
Thank you, David. So I’ll begin, and then of course turn it over to Liz if she’d like to add anything. First, thank you for highlighting, the FBI has provided advice in the past that paying a ransom would encourage further ransomware activity and is so troubling. We recognize though that companies are often in a difficult position if their data is encrypted and they do not have backups and cannot recover the data. And that is why given the rise in ransomware, and given frankly the troubling trend we see of often targeting companies who have insurance and maybe richer targets that we need to look thoughtfully at this area, including with our international partners, to determine what we do in addition to actively disrupting infrastructure and holding perpetrators accountable to ensure that we’re not encouraging the rise of ransomware.
Anne Neuberger: (14:32)
And to your second point, regarding the concerns on the connection between the information technology and the operational technology side of a network. The operational technology side of the network is the part that actually drives control of a pipeline, for example. And as such, it is the more sensitive part. We are aware that it is the more significant part. Colonial was very careful. And one of the reasons they proactively chose to shut down the pipeline was because of concerns to manage the incident and gate the ransomware as quickly as they could. So [crosstalk 00:15:04]-
… did you see evidence in the malware that was something that could move to the operation side?
Anne Neuberger: (15:10)
The Colonial incident is the private sector entity themselves. That being said, speaking to the ransomware directly, the ransomware could, of course, infect technology whether it is on the IT side or, for example, when there’s Windows-like technology on the OT side. In this case, I won’t speak to details here because it’s subject to an investigation, and those details are held within that investigation. But it certainly is a concern we have in the case of ransomware and why quickly and effectively gating the spread of the ransomware is always the first area of priority.
Speaker 2: (15:45)
Jen Psaki: (15:46)
It’s got to be quick though because we have short timeline. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (15:49)
Can you explain to us if you believe that this, since it’s criminal in your judgment now, that there’s a financial motive there? But do you believe that there was a desire to try to penetrate a kind of system that has such huge implications for the US economy and so forth? And how does that create concern for other kinds of systems, the electric grid, whatever it might be, other energy companies? Or was colonial just a rich target because they could financially pay, potentially? Do you see this as being about the infrastructure more than just the financial incentive?
Anne Neuberger: (16:23)
We don’t have further information about the intent of the perpetrators when conducting the ransomware hack against Colonial. However, as you know, ransomware affects broad sectors. And clearly criminals have learned that those sectors, one of the key sectors we saw during the COVID pandemic was the hospital sector that was affected by ransomware. Clearly we see that criminal actors have focused on the more vulnerable victims, state and local governments, schools, critical infrastructure. And that is why coming up and addressing ransomware with great vigor is a key priority of the administration, because we’re very concerned about the growth in ransomware and the impact it has both on small and medium businesses, as well as the state and local governments in the United States and around the world.
Speaker 3: (17:11)
I think just two quick ones. Do you guys consider this attack ongoing, or has the malicious actor been removed? And just to followup on something you said, that Colonial has not yet asked for cyber support, does that create a problem in terms of your ability to respond or just the federal government’s ability writ large to get a grasper handle on what’s happening?
Anne Neuberger: (17:31)
The details regarding the actual incident are being currently investigated by the FBI. Colonial has noted in their public statement that they’ve worked to control the spread of the ransomware and are actively working to bring back up their network. And they’re at the remediation phase, so we are happy to see the important progress that they made there. And I’m sorry, what was your second question?
Speaker 3: (17:54)
You said that the company has not yet asked for cyber support, does that create a problem for your US government’s ability to respond or get a handle on what’s exactly happening when a private entity is not requesting support in that capacity?
Anne Neuberger: (18:06)
Our goal is ensuring that the support is available so that any private sector entity who is experiencing a cyber hack can turn to the government for remediation assistance and technical assistance. We judge that the company said that they have adequate support and they noted in their public remarks that they’re using a third party service, that they feel they’re making adequate progress with their own resources. And we know we’re standing by, but we’re happy that they are confident in their ability to remediate the incident and rapidly recover to meet the needs of their customers in this current environment.
Jen Psaki: (18:38)
Thank you both so much. I’m sorry, they have to run to another meeting as they go around the world. [crosstalk 00:18:42] Thank you both for coming.
Speaker 4: (18:43)
Jen Psaki: (18:45)
Okay. I know we also have a hard stop because of the President’s remarks. Just keeping you busy on a Monday. Just a couple of other small things at the top. Tomorrow, President Biden will meet with a bipartisan group of governors to discuss innovative ways governors are working to get the people in their states vaccinated. The bipartisan group will share with the president some best practices on promoting access to vaccination, building confidence in vaccines, and ensuring that everyone is reached in the vaccination response. He will also acknowledge the instrumental role Democrats, Republicans, and independents have played in the vaccination efforts thus far, including helping deliver 220 million shots in the first hundred days of his presidency. And he will also discussed how this continued partnership with governors is critical to meeting the goal of achieving 70% of our adult Americans having one shot, and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by July 4th. The meeting will include Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham, Maine Governor Janet Mills, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. [Amar 00:19:56]?
Thanks. Is there any reaction to the intensifying clashes in Israel in the last couple hours as it’s gotten worse? I know Jake Sullivan was on the phone over the weekend with his counterpart, but is the President at this point getting involved? What’s the next step for him? And then if I could just say, I know we’re tight on time. Second question, any readout on the President’s remarks of the Bucharest Nine?
Jen Psaki: (20:26)
Sure. Let me start with the first and I’ll go to the second. We are continuing to closely monitor the violence in Israel. We have serious concerns about the situation, including violent confrontations that we’ve seen over the last few days. As you noted, an escalation earlier today. You also noted, Amar, that in a call over the weekend with his Israeli counterpart, our national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, reiterated concerns about the potential evictions of Palestinian families from their homes. And they agreed that the launching of rocket attacks and incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel is unacceptable and must be condemned. So this is something that our national security team is closely monitoring. Obviously across government, certainly the President is kept abreast and is watching closely as well.
Jen Psaki: (21:15)
And on your second question, this meeting, if we haven’t put out a readout yet, we will shortly. Let me give you just a couple of highlights here that I think I have available. One moment. See here. Let me work to get that to you shortly after, if I don’t have it available here. Ah, here. Here we go. So as Amar noted, the President spoke today with NATO’s Eastern flank allies in a virtual summit hosted by the presidents of Romania and Poland. He underscored his commitment to rebuilding alliances and strengthening transatlantic relationships. He conveyed his desire for closer cooperation with our nine allies in central Europe and the Baltic and Black Sea regions on a full range of issues, including global health security, climate change, energy security, and global economic recovery.
Jen Psaki: (22:08)
And he also expressed to support for enhancing NATO’s deterrence and defense posture, as well as the importance of allies increasing their resilience against harmful economic and political actions by our strategic competitors. In addition, he welcomed the opportunity to engage with these allies as well as the NATO secretary general about alliance efforts to meet future threats, which will be discussed at the NATO summit in June. And finally, he stressed the importance of strengthening democratic governance and rule of law at home within the alliance and around the world. [inaudible 00:22:40], go ahead.
Speaker 5: (22:41)
Thank you, Jen. Just a quick followup on the Bucharest Nine. Was the President’s decision to participate in the meeting just, was it driven by this desire to show a united front against Russia?
Jen Psaki: (22:55)
It was a desire to have a conversation and have a discussion with some important partners in central Europe, with NATO’s eastern flank allies about a range of issues, including security, of course, in the region. Including our efforts to address the global health crisis, climate change, energy security. This group was gathering, or they had a preset gathering and they invited him to address the gathering, and that’s exactly what he did.
Speaker 5: (23:26)
Jen Psaki: (23:27)
On infrastructure, the President spent the last 10 days making very clear his view on the merits of the corporate tax increase. And the White House has rejected user fees as paid for… Bless you, Chris. Republicans have made clear the 2017 tax law is a non-starter and are proposing user fees to pay for it. I don’t understand what the deal space is here when they’re paid fors are considered non-starters by you guys, and your paid fors are considered non-starters by theirs.
Jen Psaki: (23:53)
Well, this is a big week ahead, Phil. So big week for someone who covered Capitol Hill and is now covering the White House. Look, I think the President’s red lines-
Jen Psaki: (24:03)
Look, I think the President’s red lines are inaction and are anything that would raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year. Those are not areas where he is going to move. He is quite open, as is evidenced by the fact that he invited Senator Capito and a group of members to meet with him in the White House later this week. He’s very open to having a discussion about where we can find agreement, where we can move forward. And he has been encouraged by the spirit in which Senator Capito and other Republican colleagues are engaging with him. And he’s hopeful that the meeting will be constructive.
Jen Psaki: (24:40)
Now you’re right in what you touched on, which is an interesting piece of this, is that the disagreement is really about the pay force. There is agreement about the need to modernize our infrastructure, about the need to do more to create jobs in the economy. And he’s looking forward to hearing what additional ideas they may have.
Speaker 3: (24:58)
I just have one more quick one. I understand where you guys and the Fed are that inflation right now is transitory if it flops to the degree that it does. John’s report kind of was a reminder that we don’t necessarily have a roadmap for coming out of a once in a century pandemic economically. Are you guys concerned about what would happen if you were wrong and it’s not transitory, and this ends up being an actual real problem in the weeks or months ahead when it comes to inflation?
Jen Psaki: (25:22)
Well let me first say that our economic team watches this incredibly closely, including our secretary of treasury who has an expansive background in watching inflation. And so we have confidence in both their assessments to date and also the fact that they will watch this as we continue to assess the state of our economy. I will say, and the President will talk about this shortly I should say, later this afternoon, that his view is that we’ve always believed that there would be ups and downs in our jobs reports. That is historically how it has gone, that there are a number of factors that contribute to it being a challenge for people to hire and people to rejoin the workforce. And there are steps we can take, and this is what he will talk about in his remarks, as a government. We’ve obviously taken a number of those steps, including passing the American Rescue Plan, but there are a number of barriers to work. The biggest barriers we’ve seen, affordability of childcare, schools reopening, vaccinations is actually a huge factor.
Jen Psaki: (26:27)
So when you dig into this data, which obviously we’ve done over the last couple of days, one interesting thing that struck the President as interesting is that the week of April 12th, which is the week that the data was compiled for the April jobs report was collected, at that point only 18% of 18 to 64 year olds were fully vaccinated. And as of May 9th, it’s arisen to 34% and the seven day moving average of positive COVID cases was 40% higher in mid April then May 8th last week when the data was compiled for next month.
Jen Psaki: (26:58)
So all I’m conveying is there a range of factors, he’ll talk about announcements on state and local funding, how that will be distributed, which will help keep police, firefighters and others on the job. He’ll talk about delivering assistance to restaurants, which is where we see major opportunity for employment, rehiring. He’ll talk about providing guidance to childcare centers, which will help ensure that that funding gets out the door to cover child costs. He’ll talk about the Employee Retention Tax Credit, which will hopefully help small and medium-sized businesses. But he also believes that there are steps businesses need to take, which we’ll also talk about. Employers can get people vaccinated. They can pay people a decent wage. These larger companies have received $1.4 trillion in money, they can do a better job of paying a decent wage to bring people back into the workforce. And so there’s a lot of steps of different entities can take, and that’s where he’ll discuss this afternoon and where he thinks the focus should be. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (27:57)
Thank you. Two topics really quick. First on ethics waivers, the White House apparently had ethics restrictions that were preventing officials who work here from communicating with the unions they worked at previously, and they waived them for somebody at OMB and somebody who Made in America office. And I’m curious why that happened.
Jen Psaki: (28:15)
Well, first, since you gave me an opportunity, I will reiterate that this administration has, the President signs an executive order requiring all appointees across the federal government to sign the most stringent ethics code ever adopted by any White House. So as you referred to, in the narrow circumstances when necessary and in the public’s interests, the order authorizes agencies to grant limited waivers and consultation with White House counsel’s office, including in the cases you’re citing. President of course has stood strong for unions throughout his career and he’s proud to have leading labor voices in the White House. And there are circumstances, very, very limited, where it is in the interests of a governing, in the interest of getting work done for the American people to issue these waivers.
Speaker 6: (28:59)
And then on the economy. So employment only rose by about 266,000 jobs in April out of 7.4 million or so job openings. How does the White House know that people are just choosing not to apply for jobs because the extra unemployment benefits are so good?
Jen Psaki: (29:17)
Well, first let me say that we have looked at the data and Secretary Yellen talked about this on Friday. We don’t see much evidence that the extra unemployment insurance is a major driver in people not rejoining the workforce. We actually see the data and our analysis shows that lack of vaccination, the lower rate which is why I referred to the data and the week that it was taken, it has an impact. Childcare has an impact. Schools reopening has an impact. But there is also the need to pay a livable working wage and that’s one of the reasons the President will talk about that this afternoon.
Speaker 6: (29:59)
As Bank of America economists who were cited in a Bloomberg story, say anybody making less than $32,000 a year is better off financially just taking the unemployment benefits. So is the White House creating an incentive just to stay home?
Jen Psaki: (30:09)
Well again, the majority of economists, internally and externally of the White House, don’t feel that unemployment insurance, something that was done at a time where to help unemployed people get through a very difficult economic downturn during a pandemic, is a major driver in our unemployment data. That there are other factors, bigger factors, that were contributing, have been contributing to the numbers we saw on Friday. That’s what we’re working to address. And that’s where we think our solution should be focused.
Speaker 6: (30:43)
Just last one, really quick. The commerce secretary says the main reason that people are staying home is fear. How does the White House know that people are scared? What is that based on?
Jen Psaki: (30:52)
Well, I think what she was referring to is the fact that there was a much lower vaccination rate just a month ago, and that people are fearful about getting sick. They are fearful about whether they’re going to have the conditions to be healthy. Whether they can send their kids to a childcare center, whether there is a childcare center. So those are all factors that are consistent with the examples and reasons I just provided. Go ahead, Josh.
You mentioned that you’re monitoring inflation and that with the jobs report you expected sort of lumpy reports from month to month. Do you expect the same thing with the inflation report, is the White House bracing kind of an eye-popping top line number given the base effects that we’ll be going off of? Or are you not sort of cautious of that? Are you worried people will react to the one number that will come out [inaudible 00:31:40]?
Jen Psaki: (31:40)
Obviously our analysis is going to be done by our economic experts. They continue to convey that they believe the impact will be temporary, transitory, however you want to refer to it. But they’re looking at it closely, but I don’t have any projections on that to make from here today.
Can I ask a little bit more about vaccinations?
Jen Psaki: (31:55)
The average has dropped from about 3.4 million, four weeks ago, a day to about 2 million. It looks like it’s sort of leveled off there and have been declining steadily. Is that where you expect it to continue, do you expect it to keep coming down? And what are the factors that you think of driving that pretty substantial drop over the past month or so?
Jen Psaki: (32:13)
Sure. We always expected we’d be in a different phase. And we were at a phase just several weeks ago and you cover this closely so well, where there was such a demand for the vaccine, people were eager to get their appointment, they had vaccine t- shirts, they were doing selfies. We are now at the point, which we always knew we would be at where the supply has exceeded the demand. And it means we have to work extra hard to get into communities, to have partnerships with local doctors, with primary care physicians, to expand access, expand mobile units that are going to communities to get the supply out to people. We have hit a higher number than I think most people anticipated at this point, since the President was inaugurated. The number of people who have been vaccinated, who’ve received their first dose and are hopefully on their way to their second dose. So we knew we would be in this phase and we knew we’d be in a phase where it’d be more difficult because we need to increase access, which we’ve been focused on doing from the beginning and continue to increase confidence. We’ve seen progress in both areas.
You mentioned two weeks ago the 10 million doses of AstraZeneca that were being reviewed by the FDA. Do you have an update on that at all? Are they still reviewing it?
Jen Psaki: (33:28)
They are still reviewing it. We don’t have an update quite yet. And we’re working to hopefully have more for you on how our approach and what our assessment will be of how those doses will be disrupted.
[inaudible 00:33:40] tours being done, is that virtual, are they all coming-
Jen Psaki: (33:43)
Jen Psaki: (33:43)
Can you give us a finally a sense of whether you’re considering easing travel restrictions to Europe or whatever for vaccinated people? Where’s the US thinking on that?
Jen Psaki: (33:54)
I don’t have anything to preview on that at this point in time. Go ahead David.
Coming back to this interesting question on the unemployment benefits. One suggesting the Republicans have been making is end those benefits earlier than the current plan, which I think is the end of September and use that money to go into infrastructure. Is that being taken up by your side?
Jen Psaki: (34:19)
I’m certain they will bring many ideas to the meetings later this week, that may be one of them. But again, I think it’s important to note that we don’t see the unemployment benefits as a major driver in the jobs numbers. We see there being a number of other factors that have a larger impact, including the pace of vaccination just a month ago, the childcare impacts the need to get more money out into state and local communities. So that’s where our focus is going to be. And for us, it’s important that we continue to remain solutions oriented on areas where we feel it can be most beneficial to the economy and not be moved by talking points. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (35:03)
Yes, thanks Jen. The White House sent out earlier that the President’s meeting later today with Senator Carper and Senator Manchin. And I was wondering if you could just give us a preview of what they plan to discuss and why those two senators in particular were invited? Or will it be virtual, I don’t know.
Jen Psaki: (35:18)
Sure. Well, I would expect the President will have… You already know he has a number of meetings scheduled this week. One with, bipartisan, bicameral leadership meeting on Wednesday. He also has the meeting with Senator Capito and a group of Republican senators on Thursday. So these are just examples of two senators, additional members he’ll be meeting with to discuss the American Jobs Plan, discuss the path forward. And I’m not sure we’ll have a big readout afterwards, but it’s just a part of his ongoing outreach.
Speaker 7: (35:47)
Just quickly, you said, what a big week it is he has so many meetings with so many lawmakers. Is this sort of, I guess, a defining week, would you say for, for how things are going to proceed on the Jobs Plan, the Families Plan? Is the White House sort of setting any kind of deadline. You’ve mentioned Memorial Day-
Speaker 8: (36:03)
Is the White House setting any client deadline, you’ve mentioned Memorial Day as a time we’d like to see progress. I’m curious where you go after this week given all the [inaudible 00:36:09]-
Jen Psaki: (36:10)
The president would still like to see progress by Memorial Day, and would like to sign the bills into law this summer. That hasn’t changed, but we don’t have a new deadline. But of course a number of meetings, and the Senate’s back, and they’ll be all sorts of conversations happening this week.
Jen Psaki: (36:26)
Sorry, Kelly, go ahead.
Do you guys notice that as the president tonight his first meeting with Kevin McCarthy in that leadership meeting you talked about, obviously the House Republicans have some of their own internal matters going on. Does the president think any discord there has an influence or comes into the meetings that he will have with leaderships? Does that affect how he views sitting down with them at all?
Jen Psaki: (36:50)
No, the president knows that there is some introspection going on in the Republican party right now, and a determination about who they’re going to be, who they want to lead them, and what they want to represent moving forward. He’s not going to focus on that.
Jen Psaki: (37:07)
He also believes that the American people did not elect him to accept improbability or impossibility of working in a bipartisan manner. The role he can play, as president of the United States, is to continue to seek ways to work together.
Jen Psaki: (37:23)
And the fact is, we are continuing to work, even with the family excitement that’s happening on the other side of the aisle. We are continuing to work with Republicans on a range of issues. National Security, we confirmed our Cabinet in a faster pace since Reagan. We’re working to increase our competition. There are a lot of ways we’re working with Republicans, even as they’re determining who they are moving forward. Go ahead, in the back?
Speaker 9: (37:56)
Thank you, Jen. Both the German [inaudible 00:37:59] expressed their concerns over U.S. police enforced vaccine. They basically been underlying the need for more experts, be it for the vaccine itself or the components. Does the president understand their frustration, and more broadly do you think he underestimated the negative reactions around the world?
Jen Psaki: (38:15)
Let me first say that the presidents commitment to a global COVID-19 response has been steadfast and consistent since day one, when we made the decision to rejoin the WHO. We understand that the virus knows no borders, that it is important for the United States to continue to play a central role in addressing the global pandemic.
Jen Psaki: (38:36)
We’ve invested more than any other country in COVAX and we’re pushing other countries to invest more in the program to get vaccines to developing countries. We’re working to boost global production through partnerships like the Quad partnership, Moderna and Pfizer have announced plans and intentions to increase supply and get it out to the global community. And of course we’ve announced that we are going to share 60 millions doses, 10 million of which, as Josh referred to, or alluded to earlier, will be hopefully approved by the FDA soon.
Jen Psaki: (39:08)
There’s no question we’re playing a role. We will continue to play an increased role in efforts to address the pandemic and get the pandemic under control. Go ahead in the back?
Speaker 10: (39:18)
Thank you, Jen, speaking of NATO’s Eastern Flank, the important part of security system in the Central and Eastern Europe was supposed to be U.S. Missile Defense site in Poland. The project stalled during the previous administration, it has been delayed twice. Is President Biden committed to completing the project?
Jen Psaki: (39:46)
I don’t have anything to preview about bilateral project, or project in Poland, at this point in time. The president addressed this group today, he provided remarks, obviously a group of nine countries. It was not focused on one particular country, even though I know the President of Poland was a co-host of the event. I can certainly follow up with our National Security team and see if there’s more to report. Go ahead?
Speaker 11: (40:10)
We’re seeing hesitance in some areas to resume activities that even the CDC says are safe, not wearing a mask outside if you’re fully vaccinated, or even in particular in-person schooling. Does the administration have a strategy on helping cure those anxieties around the country, and make sure that the reopening can go as smoothly as possible?
Jen Psaki: (40:31)
The reopening of schools? Well we actually saw data that just came out last week that showed more than 50% of schools are open five days a week, and that data’s from March. We’re actually seeing increasing numbers as schools receive the American Rescue Plan funding, and as they apply the mitigation measures. I’m not sure, but was there specific data you were referring to or?
Speaker 11: (40:57)
It’s not just the reopening of schools, but getting families confident that sending their children to those schools is safe.
Jen Psaki: (40:59)
Sure, sure. This is certainly, as we look to wait for, and hope for of course, approval of one of the vaccines to be safe for 12 to 15 year olds. I know this is something that’s on the minds of parents around the country. My kids are not quite that old, but I certainly relate to and understand that. And we will continue to do what we have done with a range of communities across the country, where there has been issues with confidence. Whether it’s communities of color, where there has been a massive increase in confidence as more people get vaccinated, or more conservative communities where we’ve also seen an increase in confidence as more people in communities are vaccinated.
Jen Psaki: (41:39)
One of the reasons that we are partnering with primary care physicians, and local doctors, is because we know that is an effective way, not just with adults, but with parents, to help address questions they have, concerns they have, about whether or not getting the vaccine, taking the vaccine for their kids is safe, effective, and is necessary. And that is a program we will continue to increase our investment in. I think we’ll have more to say about that in the coming days. Sorry, I was trying to understand your question, go ahead?
Speaker 12: (42:10)
Thanks. To go back to the Colonial Pipeline, if the U.S. does begin to see a shortage of supply, would you consider waiving the Jones Act?
Jen Psaki: (42:21)
As Dr. Sherwood-Randall alluded to, we have an inter agency process that was stood up this weekend and is meeting regularly, many times a day, about a range of options. I’m not going to get ahead of those options, and at this point in time I would just reiterate we don’t see a supply issue. Go ahead, in the back?
Thanks for taking my question. The first is, does the president have a sense of how many Democrats are fully on board with the four trillion dollars worth of plans right now given that he’s meeting with these two Democratic Senators? And is there any readjustment happening with the Jobs Plan, or the Families Plan because of the disappointing jobs report last week?
Jen Psaki: (42:57)
Well, I would first say that the president has been regularly discussing with, not just Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer, but a range of members. I should say also senior members of the White House team that primarily been playing this role, have had dozens and dozens and meetings, and engagements, and discussions about these proposals, and what’s important to a variety of members.
Jen Psaki: (43:18)
As you know, Yamiche, there are some members, we’ve been talking about a lot, who want to see a smaller package. Some want to see a larger package. There’s a range of points of view that will certainly continue to be a part of the discussion. This meeting with bipartisan leaders on Wednesday, of course, the Jobs [inaudible 00:43:34] will be a part of it, they’ll also discuss a range of issues, and a range of items on the agenda during that meeting. But the discussions are ongoing and they’re a range of viewpoints that we’re in-taking on, we’re answering questions, and that is certainly not just with Republicans. It’s with a range of Democrats as well.
Just want to make sure, the question was, basically how many Democrats and does the president have a sense that he can pass at least with Democrat support right now?
Jen Psaki: (44:00)
Again, Yamiche, what I was conveying is that there are a range of Democrats and Republicans who have different ideas about what the priorities are, what they should be. Some may even want different components of the package to be bigger, some may want it to be smaller. All of that is being assessed as we have a discussion. There isn’t a bill that’s going to the floor next week. We’re in the early sausage-making stage of the discussion with members of both parties.
I had two other quick questions, the first is just on policing. Would the president sign a bill that didn’t include an end to qualified immunity when it came to policing? Jim Carver is supporting that now, what’s the presidents’ stance on qualified immunity?
Jen Psaki: (44:38)
The president is eager to see what the outcome of negotiations are and he certainly trusts in the leadership of Congressman Bass, Senator Booker. But his focus is on his hope that he can sign the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act into law on May 25th, if I’m getting the date correct, and we’re not going to get ahead of those negotiations.
He doesn’t have a stance right now that he would say-
Jen Psaki: (45:03)
We’re not going to take a stance in the middle of the negotiations.
And then the last question I have is on schooling. I saw some numbers that said Black children, half of them have gone back to school, about two thirds of Asian American children have enrolled in remote school, compared to about 20% of white students. Essentially, the point is that Black, Latino, and Asian students aren’t going back to school at the same rates as white students, and a lot of people are worried about the equity gap. Does the administration have a goal and a number in mind for how this should be playing out when it comes to students and who’s going back to school, and what’s the aim there?
Jen Psaki: (45:37)
Well one of the challenges is that the data is from March. The data at this point is a month and a half old. Is still shows encouraging signs, but as you pointed out there, Yamiche, it’s not nearly where we want it to be at the conclusion of this.
Jen Psaki: (45:53)
And the focus of Secretary Cardona and on our Department of Education, is ensuring we’re getting these funds out to the communities that need it, in order to reopen, reopen as quickly as possible, five days a week.
Jen Psaki: (46:04)
There are also entities that I think one of your colleagues over here asked about in terms of concerns about the vaccine and safety and efficacy that we need to continue to address at the same time as well. We will continue to dig into the data. One of the things Secretary Cardona has been focused on, is connecting schools and best practices so that they can learn, is it a funding issue? Is it addressing other challenges issue? And that school districts and schools can learn from each other.
Jen Psaki: (46:31)
But our goal and objective is to have all schools open, five days a week, and that’s what we’re working toward. And we’re not going to be satisfied until we get there. I know that I think you have to gather, or maybe we’re even late for that, so I’m going to wrap this up, but we’ll see you again tomorrow. Thanks everyone.