Sep 15, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript September 15
September 15, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She discussed the new COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Jen Psaki: (00:00)
That help keep workers safe, and that are already showing results with an increase in vaccinations. To provide a few examples, when Tyson Foods announced its requirement, only 45% of its workforce had gotten a shot. In less than a month, it increased to 72%. After United Airlines announced its vaccine requirement, the vaccine rate for employees and from 59% to 79% in less than a month. And in Washington State, the weekly vaccination rate jumped 34% after the governor announced requirements for state workers.
Jen Psaki: (00:31)
This event will underscore these requirements will help sustain our economic recovery and level the playing field for businesses across the country. Also, wanted to note that during this critical period of negotiations on the build back better agenda, the vice president will make her first trip to the Treasury Department since taking office to hold an event with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and make the case for the Biden-Harris administration’s proposed investments in childcare that will benefit women, children, and working families. They will now to the release of a major new Treasury Department report on the economics of childcare and the report confirms childcare remains too expensive and out of reach, and that our childcare industry is in need of significant public investment to bring down the cost for working families. Last piece I wanted to note is today the families of more than 60 million, nearly 90% of American kids, will receive the third monthly payment of the child tax credit. This is one of the most significant tax cuts for working families in history and is already helping Americans meet the cost of raising children, using this additional money to help pay for groceries back to school clothes, braces, and so many other expenses.
Jen Psaki: (01:41)
Most of the families will again see child CTC in their bank account today with a payment of 250 to $300 for each child. Studies have shown that it will boost consumer spending, jobs and has already led to a major fall in hunger in child poverty. 97% of the children receiving this tax relief are in working families and we have already seen reports of on support for the tax cuts for families across the board, including from independents and 41% of those who identify as Republicans. And we’re working, of course, to get it extended for even longer.
Jen Psaki: (02:15)
Jonathan, why don’t you kick us off?
Thanks, Jen. A new book reports that near the end of the Trump presidency, Chairman Milley had two conversations with his Chinese counterpart promising the countries would not go to war and that he would give an early warning if something were to happen. In a statement just minutes ago, Chairman Milley did not dispute this account. On this, does the president feel that these calls were appropriate? Does he have confidence in the chairman? And some Republican senators have called for Chairman Milley to be dismissed.
Is he going to keep his job?
Jen Psaki: (02:42)
Well, I saw the statement, of course, that the Department of Defense, or I should say the Joint Chiefs spokesperson just released minutes ago. I’m not going to add more, speak to anonymous unconfirmed reports about conversations with limited context from here. But what I can assure you all of is that the president knows General Milley. He has been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs for almost eight months of his presidency. They’ve worked side by side through a range of international events and the president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his fidelity to our constitution.
Jen Psaki: (03:15)
Since you gave me the opportunity, I just wanted to add, I think it’s important to consider some of the context, key context of this period in time of time in history that we’re all discussing and is outlined or covered in portions of this book. The outgoing president of the United States during this period of time fermented unrest leading to an insurrection and an attack on our nation’s capitol on January 6th, which we’ve all, you all have covered extensively, of course. One of the darkest days in our nation’s history.
Jen Psaki: (03:45)
Beyond reports in this book, there’s been widespread reporting and commentary from members of his own cabinet, the former president’s cabinet, I should say, including high ranking national security officials questioning the former president’s stability, his behavior and his suitability to oversee the national security of the United States. So those are important questions that need to be discussed as well.
I want to follow up to this. Does the president believe that General Milley should testify before Congress about his actions during that time?
Jen Psaki: (04:12)
Look, I think the president has been clear with his administration and members of his cabinet and national security team that we’ll continue to work with Congress and cooperate with them as appropriate in meeting their needs. We’ve done that from the beginning of the administration. I would defer to the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs for further decisions.
One last thing and I’ll hand off. Can you just give a comment on what seems to be the escalation of tensions between North and South Korea?
Jen Psaki: (04:36)
Sure. Well, I would first note that the State Department and INDOPACOM have both put out statements as well that I would point you all to, if you haven’t seen them. I would note that in INDOPACOM’s statement, they said they of course are aware of the missile launch as are we. They’ve also stated that they have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory or to our allies. The missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program.
Jen Psaki: (05:13)
So I would point you to those, note those. I don’t think we have additional commentary from here at this point. Go ahead.
Speaker 1: (05:18)
Thanks, Jen. Following up on Jonathan’s comments, questions here. Does the president have any concerns that General Milley perhaps worked outside of the chain of command at all in this?
Jen Psaki: (05:28)
Again, I think why it was important for me to convey what I did is that the president has worked side by side with Chairman Milley for almost eight months as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. His experience with him has been that he is a patriot. He is somebody who has fidelity to the constitution and he has confidence in his leadership and the role he has played in his experience with him. I can’t speak to anonymous unconfirmed reports about prior conversations during the last administration.
Speaker 1: (05:58)
Last one on this, former President Trump called these actions insubordinate and treasonous. Do you want to respond directly to that? And I have one more off topic.
Jen Psaki: (06:05)
I don’t think I have any further response to the former president other than to reiterate the context of this moment in time, what everybody’s talking about here and what we’re reporting on.
Speaker 1: (06:14)
Just quickly on COVID, Dr. Fauci has publicly said that he would support a vaccine mandate for air travel. Is that something the White House is actively considering?
Jen Psaki: (06:22)
Well, I know that Jeff Zients spoke to this just a little while ago, or I should say earlier this morning. And what he conveyed is that, of course, as I stated, I should say back in August, we have been discussing and looking at ways to provide consistency, to provide clarity and steps that will ensure air travel, international air travel I think you’re asking about here, but ensure it’s done in an equitable way. And the current rules have been quite confusing or the rules that have been in place for some time, but that’s not an indication of a new policy that’s forthcoming. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (06:56)
What are the less that the White House draws from the outcome of the California recall election in terms of mandates and vaccines and masking?
Jen Psaki: (07:06)
Sure. Well, obviously, we would note since you gave me an opportunity and I’ll say there’s a statement coming from the president shortly. He has not yet spoken with Governor Newsom, but I expect he will either later today or sometimes soon, just in case that was another question. But, of course, this was a resounding victory for Governor Newsom, but also for a science-based approach to fighting the pandemic, for vaccines, for testing, for steps that will protect more people and save more lives. And there’s extensive data from last night that shows that Californians were overwhelmingly in of a leader who’s willing to take strong steps to defeat COVID and get the economy up and running.
Jen Psaki: (07:44)
Governor Newsom has been one of the leading governors in the nation protecting his people and vaccinating his state. And in our view, this was a resounding support and victory for that.
Speaker 2: (07:53)
If I could ask a followup on a different matter, how much confidence does the president have that the drone strikes in Afghanistan that killed ISIS militants?
Jen Psaki: (08:04)
How much confidence in which aspect of it?
Speaker 2: (08:06)
How much confidence does he have that the drone strikes killed the targets that were intended to be ISIS fighters as opposed to innocent victims on the street? And does he take responsibility if innocent victims were killed?
Jen Psaki: (08:22)
Well, first, there is an investigation that’s ongoing as there always is in any event of drone strikes that could have impacted innocent civilians. And the United States takes incredibly seriously our role in preventing civilian casualties whenever we possibly we can. So I’m going to let that play out. The president also takes that responsibility incredibly seriously. We’ll let that conclude, and then I’m sure we’ll have more to say.
Speaker 2: (08:50)
But he doesn’t know the answer, I guess. Right?
Jen Psaki: (08:50)
Well, that’s why there’s an investigation to determine what happened and make some conclusions. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (08:58)
I wanted to ask first about a filibuster. You said last month that there was no change in the president’s viewpoint on that. Does that remain the case and is it a topic that is being discussed with Senators Sinema and Manchin today?
Jen Psaki: (09:12)
Senator Sinema and Manchin are here to discuss the build back better agenda and this path forward. And I know one of the meetings was happening. One of them is happening later this afternoon. The president certainly believes there’ll be ongoing discussions. Not that there’s necessarily going to be a conclusion out of those today, but that was the primary focus and purpose of these meetings.
Speaker 3: (09:31)
And is there a change as far as the president’s opinion on the filibuster.
Jen Psaki: (09:35)
Right now, our goal has been on moving voting rights legislation forward. The Senate has obviously been working through it. There’s been some announcements made about progress on compromise agreements. That’s a positive step, but there hasn’t been any additional change.
Speaker 3: (09:49)
Okay. And no change on the president’s opinion as far as filibusters?
Jen Psaki: (09:52)
Speaker 3: (09:53)
Okay. And then on a different subject on booster shots, there was a FDA stat that said today that it’s not clear at this point whether booster shots are-
Clear at this point, whether booster shots are useful for the general public. You have a plan to start giving those out on September 20th. Is that date still on? And do you need to wait more in order to get more of a scientific consensus behind that policy?
Jen Psaki: (10:20)
Well, first I would say, on August 18th, so almost a month ago, after weeks of discussion, eight of the Department of Health and Human Services’ top doctors released a statement saying they had determined boosters would be needed, and that we have a plan to begin a booster program starting the week of September 20th, subject to an independent evaluation from the FDA and ACIP. That continues to be the case. Right now, what we’re looking at is that today the FDA provided more data that will be analyzed through independent and rigorous scientific process. A formal meeting is also happening of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee that will take place on Friday. And next week, the ACIP is planning to meet and based on their recommendation, we’re prepared to operationalize. So those are the steps that will be occurring. Nothing has changed as it relates to the eight top doctors who put out that statement almost a month ago. There was always going to be a process. That process is proceeding.
So even if there’s no consensus, you will be moving forward with the booster shots?
Jen Psaki: (11:22)
No, it is subject to an independent evaluation from FDA and ACIP. That was what we said in August. That is what continues to be the case today. So that process is playing out now.
Speaker 4: (11:33)
Thank you, Jen. Just to put a finer point on it, because you brought up the context a couple of times, does President Biden believe that General Milley may have been acting in the national interest by circumventing a former president who he feared was acting erratically?
Jen Psaki: (11:48)
Well, it’s the obligation of every chairman of the joint chiefs to follow constitutional orders to prevent unlawful military action. That’s what the President believes. But it’s also important to understand the context of when this reporting was happening during, and the fact that the former president was fomenting an insurrection, and there was broad concern from a range of members of his national security team about his behavior and fitness for office. And I know you all know, and I have reported on that context, but that is missing a little bit as people are discussing this.
Speaker 4: (12:20)
So you think General Milley may have been acting patriotically by having these conversations with the Chinese?
Jen Psaki: (12:24)
Again, I’m not going to give further analysis other than to say that the president believes he’s patriotic, that his fidelity to our constitution is unquestionable, and he has complete confidence in him.
Speaker 4: (12:35)
And has President Biden had a fuller conversation with General Milley about all this since the book’s details were publicized yesterday?
Jen Psaki: (12:43)
I don’t have any other further conversations to read out. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (12:48)
Even if the president believes that the intentions and the patriotism of General Milley were in line with his own values, is there a point where criticism makes General Milley unable to continue in this role? Because it is a new administration, it’s a new day, and there are some questions about if he exceeded his authority.
Jen Psaki: (13:07)
Well, again, the president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism, and his fidelity to our constitution. I can’t speak to the former president’s experience with him or the former president’s views of him. But this president, this current president who follows the constitution, who’s not fomenting an insurrection, who follows the rule of law has complete confidence in Chairman Milley and him continuing to serve in his role.
Speaker 5: (13:34)
And even as Republicans may criticize and have questions about his suitability to continue, would that be a factor that President Biden would consider, separate from his judgment about how he conducted himself before?
Jen Psaki: (13:47)
I don’t think the president is looking for the guidance of members of Congress who stood by while the president of the United States and the leader of their party fomented an insurrection. And many of them were silent. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (14:00)
Jen, thank you. The Larry Nassar situation and the testimony with Congress. Simone Biles delivered powerful testimony saying enough is enough, and I didn’t hear you address it at the top. So if you could say and elaborate, what is the president’s position on the Larry Nassar situation? And does he have a reaction to what Simone Biles said to Congress today?
Jen Psaki: (14:22)
Well, I would say her testimony was incredibly powerful. Aly Raisman’s was incredibly powerful. All of these women who are brave and courageous and came forward and spoke about the abuse of a monstrous human being that they lived through as gymnasts, as some of the nation’s top athletes, that’s courageous. That’s brave. They’re playing a role in preventing this from ever happening again. I would note that also discussed was of course the DOJ’s inspector general report. And the testimony we heard today was also about that. And the Department of Justice has said that the FBI is promptly taking the steps outlined in the report to ensure that this can never happen again, which certainly the president supports that.
Speaker 6: (15:03)
And then a followup, one more, for boosters. I asked the president on the south lawn yesterday, if he would be willing to take that booster dose. You said at the podium that he would some time after the recommendations, but he didn’t elaborate. Is the president going to take the booster dose?
Jen Psaki: (15:21)
Yes, once it’s approved through the process that I just outlined. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (15:25)
Thanks, Jen. I know you’ve spoken about Milley quite a bit, but what is the president’s response to this criticism that the chairman of the joint chiefs exceeded his authority, usurped civilian authority? And does there exist any fear that that could happen to any administration including this administration?
Jen Psaki: (15:45)
Well, again, this is why I provided the context. Because what we’re talking about here, one, let me just restate again, that there are a range of reports in this book, anonymous, unconfirmed. I realize that the Department of Defense, or I should say the joint staff spokesperson, put out a statement. If you look at that statement, that is really about what the normal channels of communication are, which are important to understand as well. Broadly speaking, beyond this book, the chairman of the joint chief’s, any chairman of the joint chiefs, has channels to communicate with China and Russia. Those are meant to increase confidence. Those are meant to prevent and deter any action that would be unintended. And that is a good thing because obviously we want to prevent nuclear war.
Jen Psaki: (16:31)
So what I can speak to though, is the president’s view of Chairman Milley. And obviously Chairman Milley has been by his side for almost eight months. The president’s experience with him is that he is a man of honor. He is a man who’s… The president’s confident in his leadership, his patriotism, his fidelity to the constitution. I can’t speak to, and I’m not going to speak to, anonymous, unconfirmed, out of context reports from the last administration.
Speaker 8: (16:56)
And then on the Blinken hearings. I know the secretary of defense was invited to the hearings yesterday on the hill, but did not appear, and Democrats are considering exercising subpoena power or hinting at that. Would the president support Secretary Austin appearing before Congress? Would he encourage it?
Jen Psaki: (17:13)
He is appearing before Congress at the end of the month, and he’s already agreed to that.
Speaker 8: (17:17)
And then on COVID boosters, there’s been so much reporting about the FDA and the CDC and reports of this battle between moving forward with this timeline and getting the regulators and the scientists to sign off on it. What is the president’s response to criticism that politics might’ve played a role in the September 20th timeline?
Jen Psaki: (17:41)
Well, first it was a statement that was put out by eight of the nation’s top doctors and public health officials. It wasn’t a statement put out by the White House and it was done in response to data that was made available about the waning effectiveness of vaccines. And it was their responsibility, or they felt it was their responsibility at the time, to make their recommendations publicly available. It is still a process that needs to be seen through. And that process is undergoing, is underway, I should say, right now. And we of course respect that process and we’ll wait for that process to conclude. Oh, go ahead.
Jen Psaki: (18:16)
Oh, go ahead.
Thank you. And just to follow up on these questions about General Milley, how much agency does the president believe that those in the chain of command should have when it comes to assessing whether an order is constitutional? What if someone who is serving this president feels that there’s an order or a policy that he views as contravening the constitution. How much agency does this president give to those beneath him in the chain of command?
Jen Psaki: (18:45)
Well, beyond this president or any president, it’s the obligation of every chairman of the joint chiefs to follow constitutional orders to prevent unlawful military action. This president has no intention of fomenting unrest or an insurrection. He has no intention of obviously moving forward or recommending unlawful military action. He has no intention of working in a way that is outside of what his national security team, what his military commanders, are aligned with him on. I mean, obviously they’re going to give him a range of recommendations, but he has no intention of working outside of what is legally allowable. So I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for this president.
Let me ask you a follow-up to the vaccine mandate question. Last week you were asked about the obligation that employers have, and you suggested that large employers have the ability to pay for certain things. What’s the advice the White House would give to employers that might find it difficult to find the people to do certain things? What if, particularly in blue collar industries, what if people say, “You know what? I don’t need the vaccine. I don’t want the vaccine.”? What should an employer do? Should an employer fire his workers and then what?
Jen Psaki: (19:57)
Well, there’s a process. OSHA is going through the process of determining the regulations and requirements here to give businesses…
Jen Psaki: (20:03)
… process of determining the regulations and requirements here to give businesses and employers all these clear guidelines, which are all good questions that are being asked. And hopefully we’ll have more on that in the coming weeks. I would say that some of the industries and business leaders who will be here today represent a diversity of industries with a diversity of workforces. And what we’ve seen of the examples to date is that there’s been an increase in vaccinations. That has actually been something that has been economically advantageous to a number of businesses and industries around the country. We’re looking at the models of the past as models of what can happen in the future, but there are good questions about what these requirement will look like, and that’s what OSHA’s working on now. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (20:44)
Thanks, Jen. You said you don’t want to respond to unconfirmed, out-of-context reporting, but you’ve also given a really ringing endorsement to General Milley. So I guess my question is, is it fair to say that the president feels he knows enough about what General Milley did or didn’t do at the end of the last administration, or does he want to know more?
Jen Psaki: (21:05)
He knows General Milley, and he has worked beside him for the last nearly eight months, and that’s what gives the president confidence in him.
Speaker 9: (21:13)
This is finished as far as he’s concerned. In other words, there’s nothing more to investigate.
Jen Psaki: (21:18)
Well, we’ll leave it to Congress and others to ask questions they want to ask, and obviously the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs, and others will speak to that, but I’m just speaking to where the president stands. Go ahead.
Speaker 10: (21:29)
Jen, Politico has a report that there could be an agreement coming with Australia and the UK. There’s a line in there that could involve nuclear capability as well. Is there a situation in which the US would ship bomb-grade fuel to a non-nuclear weapon state?
Jen Psaki: (21:46)
I’ve seen the reports out there, and I know there’s been a call this morning to give people a preview of what’s coming later, and we’re going to wait for any announcement to be made more officially later this evening.
Speaker 10: (22:01)
Just on the question of this situation if the US would, is there a situation where the US would ship that bomb-grade fuel-
Jen Psaki: (22:04)
Again, the parameters of this agreement and the announcements later today, we’ll leave it to that announcement to be made. I know there was a briefing this morning as well.
Speaker 10: (22:12)
Is there any update on the measles outbreak that caused the suspension of flights of Afghan allies to the US?
Jen Psaki: (22:18)
Yeah, let me give you… Well, I don’t know how much you know, but I’ll tell you what I know, and then we’ll see. So to date, there have been seven cases that we have confirmed, and the CDC has requested, of course, at least seven additional days out of an abundance of caution to pause these flights. That remains the case now. We’re still assessing and working with the national security team, public health officials, and others to determine what the next steps are here. Obviously, it’s out of an abundance of caution, and again, these individuals are being housed separately in accordance with public health guidelines, but that’s where we stand at this point in time.
Speaker 10: (22:56)
Just one more with the September 18th rally this weekend. I know Karine was asked about this yesterday, but should people in Washington DC expect to see any sort of military presence, National Guard presence in the city? Could you give some details about just what to expect security-wise in Washington?
Jen Psaki: (23:17)
We are on obviously always watching, and take steps in order to ensure the security of people who work in government. We work closely with Congress on that. We typically don’t predict that or lay that out in advance, and so I’m not going to do that from here either. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (23:31)
Thanks, Jen. With only a couple weeks ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, obviously the administration is still negotiating a package right now that has climate at its core. Do you all feel any pressure right now to get this built across the line before the summit, when you would present to the world your ambitions on climate change?
Jen Psaki: (23:49)
Well, the summit is not for two months, so we have a bit of time, and obviously we certainly expect that it will move forward in advance of that.
Speaker 11: (23:58)
And then, do you all feel, I guess in your negotiations at the moment with Senators Manchin and Sinema, for instance, that certain climate provisions may be at stake in the current negotiations, or that you may have to downsize your ambitions there, specifically on climate?
Jen Psaki: (24:12)
Well, I would say first that the climate components of the package are incredibly important to the president, and there are some key components in the infrastructure framework which include investments, of course, in rail, increasing public transit, ensuring that we have clean drinking water across the country, investment in electric vehicles. There are also key components in the reconciliation package providing tax cuts for businesses and consumers who invest in clean energy technologies, sending a market signal that brings additional private investment off the sidelines and into modernizing our electric grid, mobilizing the next generation of conservation and resilience.
Jen Psaki: (24:52)
All of these pieces together are vitally important to helping address the climate crisis and moving our agenda forward. The president has still taken additional steps as he did just last month, where he announced steps to drive American leadership forward on clean cars and trucks, aiming to grow good-paying union jobs at home, and aligning with auto makers and the United Auto Workers to make half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 zero emissions. So there are steps we can take outside of these legislative pieces, but certainly, moving these legislative pieces forward will be significant. The president has advocated for them. This is an ongoing negotiation, but he’s made clear they’re important to him. Go ahead. Oh, go ahead. Oh, go ahead, right in front of you. Yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 12: (25:35)
Thanks, Jen. You mentioned discussion of mandates for international travel. Does the president support mandates for vaccine mandates for domestic travel?
Jen Psaki: (25:44)
We have not put in place vaccine mandates for domestic travel from the federal government. No, we have not.
Speaker 12: (25:51)
But does he support that? Is it under discussion? Has it been under discussion at any point? And if not, why not?
Jen Psaki: (25:57)
Well, again, there’s always a range of discussions about additional steps that can be taken by the federal government to protect us all from COVID, to reduce the spread. What we made the decision on or determination on last week is that putting in place these mandates and requirements on businesses would have the largest impact in helping reduce the spread of COVID, protect more people, and save more lives. So we’re maintaining existing travel requirements at this point in time. We’re obviously continuing to discuss a range of options as we always would be.
Jen Psaki: (26:34)
Go ahead. Go ahead, Francesca.
Okay. Can I go up on that? Jeff Zients said today we are exploring considering vaccination requirements from foreign nationals traveling to the United States, that you’re working now to be ready to replace the current restrictions with a new system for international travel, reading those words for him. So what is the timeframe that you would imagine for that? Are we talking about weeks here? Are we about months before the holidays that are coming up? What can you tell us about that?
Jen Psaki: (27:02)
So I said something similar in August, so did Jeff Zients, about our desire to work through these working groups, which is different from the domestic question, this is about the international component, to create consistent, equitable approaches that will also keep the American people safe and stop the spread of COVID here. I don’t have a projected timeline. It’s just an ongoing discussion that’s been happening since August, last month.
Sure. And a separate question about the vaccine mandate that the president announced.
Jen Psaki: (27:31)
Does the president intend for that to apply to employees of state and local governments?
Jen Psaki: (27:39)
State and local governments will make decisions. Some of them have OSHA requirements and laws, and others don’t. I mean, we are still recommending that that states, where they can, mandate vaccines. Obviously, leaders will make decisions on their own, but it’s really state to state on whether it’s applicable under OSHA requirements. Go ahead.
Speaker 13: (27:59)
Thanks. On the Biden-Xi call, can you clarify for us if President Biden asked President Xi for a meeting and President Xi declined that? I think that’s a little bit of confusion.
Jen Psaki: (28:09)
Sure. Well, I know there’s been some reporting out there about this, so let me just reiterate a couple of things. President Biden and President Xi had a broad strategic discussion. The question what you’re asking about related to a press report, the president and Jake Sullivan both said it’s not true, that it was not an accurate portrayal of the call. As we said at the time, they had a discussion about how to continue the ongoing channel of communication, high-level channel of communication between the presidents, and that was certainly a part of the discussion. But in terms of what’s next or what format or what that looks like, any reports that suggest there was a conclusion of that are inaccurate.
Speaker 13: (28:52)
Sorry, is it inaccurate that the request was made from the US president to have a meeting, or is it inaccurate that the Chinese president declined? Because I think “not true” was not really giving us the full picture of what in the press reports is not accurate.
Jen Psaki: (29:06)
What’s accurate is there is an ongoing discussion with the Chinese leaders about what the next steps should be about engagement on a leader-to-leader level. But I don’t have anything more to preview for you at this point in time.
Speaker 13: (29:17)
One other issue that I know is a big priority of yours on the supply chain, specifically semiconductors. Where in your priority list is getting that broader China competition bill through the Congress? Can you give us a little bit of context of how much your team is working on that still, how to get it done, when to get it done?
Jen Psaki: (29:39)
Well, there’s clearly a lot happening in our legislative agenda right now, but you’re absolutely right that moving this forward is a priority. It’s part of the discussion that senior members of the White House have with leaders in Congress as we’re talking about what we want to get done in the coming months. I’m not going to give a rank order. Obviously, there’s a number of pieces we need to get done right now. Go ahead, Karen.
Thanks, Jen. There was a new poll from [inaudible 00:29:59] out today that found that 2 in 10 Americans don’t think the country will ever go back to-
Speaker 14: (30:03)
… found that two in ten Americans don’t think the country will ever go back to normal after COVID-19, what’s the White House message to Americans who are so pessimistic right now?
Jen Psaki: (30:10)
Our message is, we understand your frustration. This has been a long haul, and we have all been navigating through what has been a difficult time in this country, for people across the country. Whether it’s because you have kids who are not yet vaccinated, whether it’s because you’re not able to go to sporting events or go to concerts or go out like you used to, it’s all difficult. So first we would acknowledge that. But I would say the second piece is that the President made clear last week, he’s going to use every lever possible from the federal government to reduce the spread of COVID to protect more people, to save more lives. That is what we will hope lead to us going back to a version of normal.
Speaker 14: (30:54)
And the White House announced the President will be going up to the UN General Assembly next week. Can you give us a sense right now of what that day will look like? Is he going to be holding bilateral meetings and who might he be meeting with on the sideline?
Jen Psaki: (31:03)
Sure. I don’t have anything quite yet, hopefully I’ll have by tomorrow. Obviously, he’ll be giving remarks while he’s there, he will have some bilateral meetings. Hopefully we’ll have more on that in the next 24 or 48 hours or so. Go ahead, Patsy.
Patsy Widakuswara: (31:14)
Thanks Jen. On President Biden’s call to world leaders to recommit against the pandemic and the call to fully vaccinate the world, 70% of the world’s population, by next September. Many experts that we’ve spoken to say that this goal will be unlikely to be achieved unless there is a vaccine patent waiver at the WTO. The US has supported this since May, and it’s been months, and it doesn’t seem like Ambassador Katherine Tai has been able to move the needle a little bit. So is the US serious, and would that be part of the President’s call in recommitting to the fight against pandemic globally?
Jen Psaki: (31:49)
Well first, I know there’s been a range of reports about an email invitation that was sent out. That was not an announcement or determination of any goals we’re setting, there’s still a discussion about that. But I would say that we always said from the beginning, the TRIPS Waiver process would be a long one. It is. I know we’re in September, but we always knew that it would be a lengthy process. But that’s never been the only basket that we’re focused on. We’ve also been focused on increasing supply, or vaccine supply, to the world where we provide more vaccines to the world than any other country in the world combined. We’ve also been working with countries on manufacturing capacity and making sure they have the materials they need. So this is an across the board approach, it’s not based on one particular component. But in terms of specific goals, I know there’s been some reports about an invitation, but those are not yet representative of our view.
Patsy Widakuswara: (32:39)
And one more on foreign policy. The Ukrainian President’s office issued a statement that as part of the agreement reached during the Biden and Zelenskyy meeting, Ukraine may receive new air and missile defense systems, in particular the Iron Dome. Can you confirm?
Jen Psaki: (32:53)
I’d have to check on that with our team. I know we announced we were providing additional assistance when we had that meeting, but in terms of the specifics, I’d have to check with our team. Go ahead.
Speaker 15: (33:02)
Just a quick follow up on that timeline for the reconciliation bill. Do you expect that to be signed into law by the time Biden goes to Glasgow or just move forward?
Jen Psaki: (33:13)
Look, I’m not really here to… I’m not setting a deadline on this. All I’m conveying is we’re two months away, is what we’re talking about with Glasgow, so obviously we hope to make progress in that period of time, and we’re certainly making progress now. But, I wouldn’t tie it to what our meeting is there or our objectives or ability to achieve what we want to do.
Speaker 15: (33:30)
Just one more on some of the details of the plan. Does the White House believe the fresh taxes on cigarettes and vaping violate Biden’s pledge not to tax any Americans that make less than $400,000 a year?
Jen Psaki: (33:45)
No, we don’t. But I’d also say that this is an idea put forward, there are a lot of, a range of ideas put forward. This is the period of the process where that discussion is ongoing and the President encouraged members of Congress to put things forward. Things they’d like to see in the package, revenue raisers that they could see in the package. But, no, we don’t believe that violates our pledge.
Speaker 15: (34:06)
Why wouldn’t that violate it?
Jen Psaki: (34:08)
Well again, I think our pledge, one, is related to Americans making less than $400,000 a year as their income and their taxable income. Also, I know you’re going to ask me probably about our opposition to the vehicle mileage tax, millions of Americans go to work and drive their cars and go to work and that would impact millions and millions of Americans. Obviously, public health guidance advises against smoking. So that’s not something that we think falls into the same category. But again, it’s not an idea that President has proposed and it’s just one that’s been proposed among many of men from members of Congress.
Speaker 15: (34:46)
Does the White House support that component?
Jen Psaki: (34:49)
It’s not one we proposed, there are negotiations, they’re happening now. I’m not going to negotiate all of the components from here, but it wasn’t one that the President proposed in his initial speech or announcement. But he’s also encouraged members to come forward with a range of ideas. Go ahead.
Speaker 20: (35:06)
Thanks Jen. Senators from both parties have called for an investigation into Facebook’s internal research on the way young users are affected by Instagram. Would the White House back these efforts?
Jen Psaki: (35:19)
Efforts by Congress to investigate?
Speaker 20: (35:22)
Facebook and their internal research on Instagram and how it affects young users.
Jen Psaki: (35:26)
I did see some of the reporting. I haven’t had a chance to really talk to our team about this. I would say that, the President does think and he has said that there are serious issues around how much power internet platforms have en masse in our society, and certainly some of that reporting is an example of that. But in terms of next steps, I don’t think I have a further comment at this point in time, but I will see if there’s more we have to offer. Go ahead.
Speaker 16: (35:49)
Thank you Jen. A question about Iran. Iran has now a new chief nuclear negotiator, it’s widely seen as a sign that they’re going to adopt a tougher stance. So does the President still believe that he can restart the talks with Iran about nuclear weapons?
Jen Psaki: (36:05)
He continues to believe that a diplomatic path forward is the best path forward. And that, going back to a period of time where we have visibility into Iran’s nuclear capabilities, that we can work with our international partners to hold them accountable is the best step. But obviously that is up to the State Department to determine what’s possible with diplomacy. I know we have to wrap here because I think you have to go gather, but why don’t we do one last one.
Speaker 17: (36:28)
Jen, did the President watch any of the emotional testimony from the US gymnasts earlier today? I know you’ve touched on his message. Did he tune in to any of it?
Jen Psaki: (36:36)
I know he’s had a full schedule today, so I’m not sure he’s had the opportunity to watch much of the testimony on television. We have mentioned it to him because obviously it impacted many of us. As you’re watching, I don’t know how anyone couldn’t have been impacted watching it, but I’m not sure if he’ll have an opportunity later today. I know he’s been following this closely, of course.
Speaker 17: (36:54)
Does he still have confidence in his FBI director, given many of these young women said they feel, “failed and betrayed by the FBI?” One agent has been removed, but does the President believe that more should be removed from their jobs if they were involved?
Jen Psaki: (37:08)
There’s an IG investigation, which is an important process and one that should be followed and the President certainly supports that. Obviously, the FBI director was also testifying today and spoke to his views of what went wrong here. So I’d point you to that. Okay, thanks so much, everyone. I got a wrap because you guys have to gather. Thanks everyone.