Sep 20, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript September 20
September 20, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She addressed the U.S. strike in Kabul that resulted in 10 civilian deaths. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (01:36)
Hi everyone. Good morning, or good afternoon. Okay, two items for all of you at the top. Today, the Biden administration is launching House America, a new initiative for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the United States Inter-Agency Council on Homelessness that will engage State and local leaders to set and achieve ambitious goals for reducing homelessness in America. Homelessness was on the rise before the pandemic and the last couple of years have just exacerbated the problem. On any given night, more than half a million Americans during the pandemic without the safety and protection of a home. Thanks to the President’s American rescue plan and Congress’s, everybody’s American rescue plan, communities now have historic housing resources to help more Americans obtain the safety of a stable home.
Jen Psaki: (02:19)
Including 70,000 emergency housing vouchers, $5 billion in home grants, and significant investments to preserve and protect housing on tribal lands. In addition, communities have $350 billion in State and local fiscal recovery funds from the Department of Treasury to support many needs, including homelessness and housing instability. So today, [inaudible 00:02:39] asking State and tribal and local leaders to work collaboratively with them to use these ARP funds and other existing federal, State and local resources to rapidly reduce homelessness in their communities and add new units of affordable and supportive housing into the development pipeline by the end of 2022.
Jen Psaki: (02:57)
The initiative will promote the use of housing first, the proven theory that the best way to stabilize the life of someone experiencing homelessness is to ensure that they have a home first without preconditions and so, we are moving forward with that. Also, wanted to note that tomorrow, the Senate Committee on Small Businesses set to consider the nomination of Dillaware Syed for deputy administer as administrator for the Small Business Administration. He’s well qualified to serve as deputy administrator of the SBA, which has been critical in providing relief to small businesses in the midst of the pandemic. He’s lived the American dream as an immigrant and as CEO of a small startup that has been helping small businesses continue to create jobs.
Jen Psaki: (03:39)
He’s the endorsement of more than 200 individuals and groups, and yet his confirmation is being held up in an unprecedented way and for no good reason. These members have refused to show up at a committee meetings, meaning quorum cannot be reached and a vote cannot be held on his nomination. And by refusing to show up a committee meetings, they are not just blocking his vote, but also slowing help to American small business owners and workers who are trying to build back the pandemic. So we wanted to call out that hearing that will happen tomorrow. Darlene, why don’t you kick us off?
Darlene : (04:10)
Thanks Jen. A couple of questions for you. The UN Secretary General spoke to the AEP over the weekend and in the interview, he called on the U.S. and China to repair a relationship that he says is “completely dysfunctional.” He warned of a potential new cold war and said the U.S. and China need to be collaborating more on COVID and other global challenges. So how would you respond to the UN Secretary General on his call for the U.S. and China to be more friendly, I suppose?
Jen Psaki: (04:45)
Well, first I would say the President’s view and this administration’s view is that our relationship with China is one, not of conflict, but of competition. And so, we wouldn’t agree with the characterization of the relationship. As I would note, in the readout of the President’s call with President Xi just last week, a 90 minute call that covered an extensive list of topics, it was a conversation that was candid, but it was certainly not elevated. And we recognize that China’s a country that while we may take issue with some means they engage in the world, we also have areas we will want to continue to work together.
Jen Psaki: (05:23)
And that is certainly many of the topics that were raised by the Secretary General. The President obviously has a meeting with him later this evening. I would also note that tomorrow, the President will deliver a speech, as you all know at the UN General Assembly, and he will make absolutely clear that he is not looking to pursue a new cold war with any country in the world. We will continue to pursue our interests. We will continue to lift up global priorities, but that is not the objective or the policy of the United States
Darlene : (05:52)
Another China related question. Can you say how concerned the administration is about the stability of China’s real estate sector given the issues with China [inaudible 00:06:01]? And is it the administration’s view that the People’s Bank of China can keep those issues from spilling over into other sectors and possibly affecting U.S. interests?
Jen Psaki: (06:13)
Well, let me first note that this is a company based in China whose activities are overwhelmingly centered in China. That being said, we always are monitoring global markets, obviously from the Department of Treasury primarily, including the assessment of any risk to the U.S. economy, and stand prepared to respond appropriately if needed. But monitoring what happened primarily from the Department of Treasury and our Secretary of Treasury, of course.
Darlene : (06:36)
And just one more really quickly. Is there any reaction from the white house to the conviction earlier today of the man who inspired Hotel Rwanda? He was a U.S. resident, he was a recipient of the Presidential Metal of Freedom.
Jen Psaki: (06:49)
I understand, and I would like to get you a more comprehensive reaction to it. I know this is a question that others will have in the room, so let me venture to do that after the briefing. Go ahead.
Speaker 1: (06:57)
What does the President want to tell President Macron about the submarine deal?
Jen Psaki: (07:02)
Well, first I think it has been noted in some reports, so let me just confirm this, I guess. The President will have a call, we’re still working on the scheduling of it with President Macron in the coming days. And what I expect the President will do on that call is reaffirm our commitment to working with one of our oldest and closest partners on a range of challenges that the global community is facing. And he of course, will discuss recent developments and our ongoing work together on a range of issues. Certainly, our shared interest in the Indo-Pacific, but also a range of global challenges and issues.
Jen Psaki: (07:40)
I would also note that the President spoke in his remarks last week, acknowledged in his remarks, I should say, he acknowledged the France has substantial Indo-Pacific presence and is a key partner and ally and strengthening security and prosperity. But most importantly, we continue to look forward to our close alliance with France. One of our strongest partnerships as we work to address a range of issues in the world.
Speaker 1: (08:02)
And you have no plans to abandon the submarine deal, do you?
Jen Psaki: (08:06)
No, we do not.
Speaker 1: (08:07)
And secondly, back in July, you opted not to lift the travel restrictions on international visitors. What’s changed between then and now?
Jen Psaki: (08:16)
Well, back in July, we also announced that there were a series of working groups that were both inter-agency and working with a range of countries and partners in the world to determine what the most equitable and clear policies should be moving forward to resume broader international travel. And the older rules were not equitable in our view, and they were a bit confusing. And so, this was an effort to pursue that, as was announced in a call earlier today, but I can reaffirm some of the specifics that were announced.
Jen Psaki: (08:49)
Starting in November, we will be implementing, I should say, in early November, we’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying international into the United States by requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated. Obviously, this is the conclusion of a policy process on that particular issue, an important one facing many people around the world.
Speaker 1: (09:11)
Jen Psaki: (09:11)
Speaker 2: (09:11)
Hey Jen, a few quick questions on COVID …
Jen Psaki: (09:13)
Speaker 2: (09:13)
… and then I have a foreign policy question for you. Now that the FDA’s vaccine advisers have recommended boosters for people 65 and up, how soon do you expect President Biden to get this booster shot and will he do so on camera?
Jen Psaki: (09:26)
He will do so and he will do so on camera. I don’t have a date for you exactly. It’s important to note just to take a slight step back that there are still a couple of additional steps in the process. Well, I know we view the news on Friday as an important step forward in protecting more people, saving more lives. The steps now is that ACIP is planning to meet based on their recommendation. We’re of course, prepared to operationalize on the plan. And that includes having the President get his booster shot as well.
Speaker 2: (09:54)
And is the President still being tested for COVID regularly and if so, how often?
Jen Psaki: (09:58)
He is tested regularly. He was tested last week and his test was negative, but he is tested regularly, yes.
Speaker 2: (10:04)
Just lastly, on this front, has he gotten, or does he plan to get the flu shot?
Jen Psaki: (10:09)
I will talk to his doctor. I got a flu shot last week. They’re broadly available, but I will check and see if we have an answer to that question.
Speaker 2: (10:16)
And just on the foreign policy front with the UN visit tomorrow. President Biden came into office declaring that America is back and vowing to reinvigorate U.S. alliances, but in recent weeks we’ve seen European allies be unsettled by the execution of the U.S.’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. The administration has admitted to mistakenly killing 10 civilians in this drone strike. And now the U.S.’ oldest ally, France has recalled its ambassador after being blindsided by this submarine deal with Australia. So my question to you is how is the President going to restore U.S. credibility at the UN this week after all of that?
Jen Psaki: (10:50)
Well, why don’t I give you a preview a bit of what you can hear the President talk about tomorrow in his remarks. And obviously, as you know, he’ll have a number of bilateral meetings tomorrow as well as later this week. And to the degree, you all have questions, I’m happy to speak to those as well. But what you’ll hear him talk about tomorrow is the President’s went to layout the case for why the next decade will determine our future, not just for the United States, but for the global community. And he will talk, and this will be a central part of his remarks about the importance of reestablishing our alliances after the last several years.
Jen Psaki: (11:20)
I also think it’s important to note that reestablishing alliances doesn’t mean that you won’t have disagreements, or you won’t have disagreements about how to approach any particular issue in the world. That is not the bar for having an alliance and important partnership, that has never been and it is not currently, with the goal, of course, of increasing the prospect of security and diminishing the prospect of war. He’ll also make clear that for many of the greatest concerns we have, they can not be solved or even addressed through the force of arms, whether that is preparing for the next pandemic, something the United States continues to be the global leader on providing more vaccines to the world than every other country combined.
Jen Psaki: (12:01)
Addressing the threat of climate change as we all look ahead to cop 26, leveling the economic playing field, fighting for democracy at home and abroad and against threats ranging from cybersecurity to emerging technologies and terrorism. Finally, he will also reaffirm that the United States is not turning inward including as we look to the decision the United States made, the President made to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Anyone who reads that in that way is not reading it accurately. He will talk about his objective of turning our focus and our resources to the priorities and regions of the world that are the most consequential.
Speaker 2: (12:38)
But just given what’s happened in recent weeks and some of the criticism that he’s faced in many of the capitals of the allies whose partnerships he vowed to reinvigorate, does he believe there’s work to be done to restore that credibility or to address the criticism that …
Jen Psaki: (12:52)
Well tell me which country is telling you that we don’t have credibility in the world?
Speaker 2: (12:56)
I didn’t say countries are saying there’s no credibility, but there has been criticism in foreign capitals in recent weeks, including with many of those partners …
Speaker 3: (13:03)
… criticism in foreign capitals in recent weeks, including with many of those partners who the president said he was going to reinvigorate these alliances with. So how does he square what is-
Jen Psaki: (13:08)
Well, the reason I asked that question is because I think it’s important to note that criticism of a decision is different from criticism of the credibility and leadership of the United States, broadly speaking. And if you look back through the course of the last several decades, prior to the last administration, there are points of disagreement, including when we have disagreed with the decisions other countries are making, points when countries have disagreed with the decisions we’re making.
Jen Psaki: (13:34)
But the larger point here, and what you’ll hear the president talk about tomorrow, is that we are committed to those alliances. And that always requires work, from every president, from every global leader. And his commitment is to make sure we are directing our energy, our resources, our diplomacy, and our efforts on the biggest challenges we’re facing in the world. And to him, that is the threat of climate, the threat of democracy, the importance of leveling the economic playing field, addressing and preparing for the next pandemic. Those are all issues that we will continue to work with our partners on, including those who may disagree with decisions we’ve made about a variety of issues. Go ahead, David.
All right. Back on the submarine deal. So in the conversation with the President Macron, is it President Biden’s view that the United States is responsible in any way for some kind of reparation, some kind of deal that will make up for part of the economic loss and also give a greater sense of a working partnership? Or is it his view that it’s really up to Australia to make up any economic laws out of this, if there’s any loss to be made up at all?
Jen Psaki: (14:45)
Well, I know from a range of reporting, including perhaps yours, that there were a couple hundred jobs that they anticipate being lost in France, and certainly that is a factor for them domestically. We understand that. But I think you can expect the President’s call will be more about reaffirming our commitment, the United States’s commitment to our Alliance, to our partnership, and to working together on a range of issues, including security in the Indo-Pacific, that that will be the broad focus of the call.
One more. When you were in the Obama Administration, we often talked about the need to reduce the amount of highly enriched uranium that’s moving around the world. President Obama ran a number of summits, you’ll recall, that were aimed at converting reactors from HEU to LEU. So here we are helping Australia, a very good player, a well-known non-proliferation advocate, by having them build HEU, or building it for them. Without any reference to problems with Australia, what message does that send to the rest of the world about how committed we are on this?
Jen Psaki: (15:55)
Well, first, David, the President’s position and commitment to nonproliferation has not changed. We’re committed to renewing American leadership in nonproliferation and addressing the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons. This, in our view, is an exceptional case, not a precedent setting case. As many of you know and have followed this closely, we’re not talking about nuclear armed submarines. I know you’re asking me about enriched uranium, but it’s important for people to understand that as well. These are conventionally armed submarines that are powered by nuclear reactors. There’s also an 18 month process that we are undergoing on the implementation of this. But again, this was a decision made working with a country that has a long history, the Australia, as does the United Kingdom, as the United States of being steadfast and support for nuclear nonproliferation and for the regime and its cornerstone, the NPT, and we all are committed to complying with our respective nonproliferation obligations as we implement over the next 18 months. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (16:58)
Thanks, Jen. Following up on France. First of all, you said you expect a call in the next few days. Have the French actually committed to a call?
Jen Psaki: (17:05)
Yes. We’re an active conversation about a call.
Speaker 4: (17:07)
I want to make sure you weren’t being sent a voicemail or anything like that.
Jen Psaki: (17:09)
No, I don’t think so.
Speaker 4: (17:11)
Following up on the drone strike last week that the Pentagon now admits was a tragic mistake, what was the President’s response when he learned about that?
Jen Psaki: (17:20)
Well, the President was briefed on Friday morning about the report that was going to be released and put out. I would say first, the President’s view, and all of our view, is that the loss of any civilian life is a tragedy, as was made clear in the comments by the Secretary of Defense, by General McKenzie. This was done in error. And clearly, the investigation that will continue as something the President broadly supports. So as a human being, as a President, as somebody who has overseen loss in a variety of scenarios, both as a leader and personally, his reaction is it’s a tragedy and every loss is a tragedy and he supports the effort to move this forward as quickly as possible and to have a thorough investigation.
Speaker 4: (18:10)
You mentioned it’s an ongoing investigation. Should it be anticipated that someone would be fired, demoted, not promoted, passed over, and held accountable within the military ranks for this?
Jen Psaki: (18:22)
I think what’s important is that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman and General McKenzie came forward and made very clear that they wanted to see this move forward quickly. They wanted to be as transparent as possible. They wanted to learn from what had happened. It’s also important to note what the circumstances were here, in when this strike was made. This was a scenario where there were direct threats from ISISK against our troops who were on the ground in Afghanistan. And that was the scenario where the strike was made. Obviously, it was done in error, and obviously there was a horrific tragedy that happened, but I’m not going to predict what the impact will be.
Speaker 4: (19:06)
One more on Afghanistan. Back on August 26th, the president has said, “I’ve also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISISK assets, leadership, and facilities. We will respond with force and precision at our time at the place we choose in the moment of our choosing.” Should we still be anticipating that there will be military response to what happened there in Kabul?
Jen Psaki: (19:28)
Against ISISK? Yes. I think it’s important. This is a good question that’s been asked. I think this is a version of what you’re asking, but others have asked me this. There’s a difference between a self-defense strike based on an imminent threat to US forces, that’s why I referenced that, who were obviously on the ground, and these were threats as you all lived through and covered and as we communicated about in the moment, and an over the horizon strike where we typically expect to have more time to assess both the threat and the potential target. That is a point General McKenzie made, an important point, I think, for people to understand as we assess over the horizon threats and targets moving forward in the future.
Speaker 4: (20:10)
So at some point, there may be some [inaudible 00:20:11].
Jen Psaki: (20:11)
Well, I would say of course, the President’s desire to continue to go after ISISK has not changed.
Speaker 4: (20:14)
Okay. And then just one last one, they’re not related. The issue of immigration, the ruling from the parliamentarian, the legalization for DREAMers can’t be part of the reconciliation as currently crafted. Given this is a top priority for a key voting block Latinos here in this White House, how personally engaged might the President get on this? Do you guys have specific alternative proposals that have a chance of actually getting passed under this Congress?
Jen Psaki: (20:41)
Well, there are a number of senators who have spoken to their intention of putting forward alternative proposals because of their commitment and our shared commitment, of course, to moving immigration reform forward and protecting DREAMers and others. And so the President supports those efforts. And certainly, he has long stated his support for immigration being a part of reconciliation. That’s really the next step in the process, but there are a number of members who are already working on that.
Jen, immigration [inaudible 00:21:09].
Jen Psaki: (21:09)
I’ll go to you next April. Let me just go… Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (21:11)
Well, I’ll start there.
Jen Psaki: (21:12)
Speaker 5: (21:13)
So the crisis of the border and Del Rio, we heard DHS say [inaudible 00:21:17] continue expulsions under Title 42. So what is the White House’s message to Haitian immigrants seeking asylum? Is there a place for them?
Jen Psaki: (21:26)
Well, I think it’s important for people to understand a couple of the components of what’s happening right now on the ground. One, we extended TPS several months ago, and again, re-evaluated to ensure that we were taking into account what was happening on the ground in Haiti.
Speaker 5: (21:45)
Jen Psaki: (21:45)
I understand, but that does apply to people who are here who arrived before a certain date, and I think that’s an important component of what’s happening. If you’re talking about the situation on the ground in Del Rio, one, it’s a challenging situation. It’s devastating to watch this footage. I think it’s important though, for people to also know that what we’re trying to do is also protect people. One, we’ve been conveying that this is not the time to come. We have been implementing Title 42. That’s not just about people in the United States. That’s also about protecting migrants who would come in mass groups and be in mass groups.
Jen Psaki: (22:20)
We are also surging resources and taking a multi-pronged approach. We’ve been working with the American Red Cross to bring in much needed resources. We’ve worked with World Central Kitchen to bring in meals. And we have been expediting repatriation flights, both to a range of countries in South and Central America where people may have come from if they can be accepted back, and some back to Haiti. That is what our focus is on at this point in time. And our message continues to be, as you’ve heard Secretary of New York convey, now is not the time to come for a range of reasons, including we don’t have the immigration system up and running in the way we want, including there is still a pandemic and Title 42 remains in place. And these are the steps that we’re taking, in part to protect the border communities, as well as the migrants themselves.
Speaker 5: (23:06)
Different topic quickly, there will be a government shutdown if Congress doesn’t act in 10 days. Can you tell us what the impact of a government shutdown would be on the COVID response in this White House?
Jen Psaki: (23:16)
Well, our effort right now is to prevent a government shutdown and to ensure we are not facing a government shutdown. And as we get closer, we can certainly discuss that. But right now, that’s where our energies are. Go ahead, April.
Oh, Jen, back on Haiti. I hear that you’re digging in the weeds a little bit more. The process for Haitian migrants is [inaudible 00:23:38] different than other nations. You have people like Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who’s calling for equal treatment and fairness when it comes to the Haitians at the border. And overall, you’re allowing Afghans to come in, Afghan supporters, to come in as well as Mexicans, and then Haitians are not allowed. Can you speak to that, the issue of equity and fairness?
Jen Psaki: (24:00)
Absolutely, April, and I appreciate your question. Let me just take these different pieces side by side. One, our immigration policy is not about one country or discriminating one country over another. We want to end that and hopefully put an end to what we shot over the last four years. Let me start with Afghan allies, Afghans who are arriving in our country are entering in a sanctioned and orderly process that includes vetting and security screenings led by the departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security. It’s not about one particular country of origin, but we’ve outlined very specifically in here what those processes look like as individuals who are evacuated go to Lily-Pad countries, go through security vetting before they come to the United States on a range of programs.
Jen Psaki: (24:46)
As it relates to individuals who are coming across the border, wherever they’re coming from, whatever country they’re coming from, Title 42 remains in place. There are a range of programs that people who are in the country can apply for, or may be eligible for, including TPS for Haiti, which is something that we still are continuing to look at and review. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security are constantly assessing circumstances on the ground that would necessitate a TPS designation for any country. And they’ve obviously made a couple of designations over the course of the last couple of months as it relates to Haiti.
No matter whether it’s the people who left, the Haitians that left in 2010 and traveled to South America and now trying to travel here, or the ones who left after this earthquake, either way, what is there for them to go back to when these planes are taking them back? The nation is in unrest. The president was assassinated. There are gangs. The people, they’re scared. Democratic rule is not necessarily in place. The people calling, particularly those here, and this nation are calling for the elections not to be held on time because of unrest there. And then you also have the issue of the earthquakes. So what is there to go back to? What are you deporting them back to?
Jen Psaki: (26:03)
… to go back to. What are you deporting them back to?
Jen Psaki: (26:03)
Well, April, I will say that our objective and our focus is not only in implementing current immigration policies. We have also been working to provide a range of assistance, working closely with officials from the government, as individuals are going back to Haiti to provide a range of financial assistance, to provide a range of technical assistance. That is ongoing, and we certainly support and want to be good actors in supporting Haiti during a very difficult time as you noted with a government that is still working to get back to a point of stability with recovery from an earthquake. And that’s why we have a range of programs, options, as well as financial support in place.
Speaker 6: (26:42)
Thanks, Jen. To follow up on Ed’s question on immigration, in the big picture right now, how confident is the president that we’ll be able to enact some sort of long-term pathway to legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants at some point before the midterms, whether it’s through reconciliation or through-
Jen Psaki: (27:01)
It’s a long time before the midterms. I know that’s a tough thing for you to hear, but it’s a long time before the midterms. I can’t give up a projection for you. It depends on a lot of factors, including working with members of Congress. What I can tell you though, is that the president is absolutely committed to putting in place a path to citizenship, to putting in place long overdue measures to fix our immigration system, to make it more moral, humane, and workable, frankly. And obviously he supported and continues to support having immigration measures as a part of the reconciliation process. And as I noted to Ed, the next step is really to see alternatives proposed by senators who’ve already said they have every intention of doing exactly that.
Speaker 6: (27:44)
Just to follow up on that, we’ve also seen the parliamentarian rule against the effort to increase the minimum wage through a reconciliation bill. We’ve seen other priorities on the hill that both the president and Democrats campaigned on, police reform, gun control also stalled there. Is there a recognition in the White House now that some of the priorities that he and the party campaign for last year are just simply not going to happen, not going to become reality before the midterms?
Jen Psaki: (28:09)
Nope. Go ahead.
Thank you, Jen. Back to the drone strike, you said last month, our over the horizon capacity can work and has worked in going after ISIS targets and killing people who went after our troops, but you guys didn’t kill people who went after our troops. You killed 10 civilians, including seven children. So does the president still think these over the horizon strikes can work?
Jen Psaki: (28:31)
Absolutely. And I will just reiterate as our secretary of defense conveyed, as General McKenzie conveyed that there was a serious mistake. The secretary of defense is authorized as I noted before a thorough review of the investigation just completed by US Central Command, including the degree to which the investigation considered all available context and information, the degree to which accountability measures need to be taken at which level and the degree to which strike authority procedures and processes need to be altered in the future. That’s an important process.
Jen Psaki: (29:04)
I would note, which I noted earlier that there’s a difference between a self-defense strike, which is exactly what this was. And I would note there was one prior to this that was a successful self-defense strike. And those that disposing an imminent threat to US forces who were, as we all know, on the ground at that time facing real threats in real time and an over the horizon strike, where we typically expect to have more time to assess both the threat and the potential target. That is a different approach, and it requires a different approach. And it’s a different approach internally and General McKenzie spoke to that last week as well.
Some of the victim’s relatives are saying that they want to be relocated here. Is that something that the administration is going to help them do?
Jen Psaki: (29:45)
I’m not aware of that request or that ask. I’m happy to certainly speak to our national security team and see what that process would look like.
A question about what’s going on at the border. Is somebody asking the foreign nationals who are walking in Del Rio, Texas, and setting up camps on this side of the border for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test?
Jen Psaki: (30:07)
Well, first of all, I can readdress for you or we re-talk you through what steps we take-
That is the policy for people who fly into the country. So if somebody walks into the country right across the river, does somebody ask them to see their vaccination card?
Jen Psaki: (30:24)
Well, let me explain to you again, Peter, how our process works. As individuals come across the border, they are both assessed for whether they have any symptoms. If they have symptoms, the intention is for them to be quarantined. That is our process. They’re not intending to stay here for a lengthy period of time. I don’t think it’s the same thing. It’s not the same thing. These are individuals as we’ve noted, and as we’ve been discussed. We are expelling individuals based on title 42 specifically because of COVID because we want to prevent a scenario where a large numbers of people are gathering, posing a threat to the community and also to the migrants themselves. So those are the policies that we put in place in large part, because again, the CDC continues to recommend title 42 be in place, given we’re facing a global pandemic.
Where’s the vice president on any of this? Isn’t she supposed to be addressing the root causes of migration?
Jen Psaki: (31:19)
Absolutely. And she has been addressing the root causes of migration by working with countries in the region to ensure they have the assistance they need, to reduce the number of people who are coming and trying to make those journeys across the border. We’ve actually seen some reductions in some of those numbers. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a very challenging situation in Del Rio. We’re working to implement our policies and we’re working to ensure we are also addressing their pauses.
Just a quick one on boosters. Why did the president say in August, “Just remember as a simple rule, eight months after your second shot, get a booster shot,” if there is not enough data to support that for the general population?
Jen Psaki: (31:55)
Well, what the president also said is that, “I want to be very clear. The plan is pending the FDA conducting an independent evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the CDC advisory committee.” We are right now in the week of September 20th, the advisory committee is meeting on Thursday. We’ve seen some recommendations that we felt was a step forward and providing more protection to people across the country. And we’ll wait for that process to play out. Our objective and our role is to ensure we have the capacity, the number of shots to provide them to the American people.
68 FDA advisors say there is not the science. The president talks about following the science. Is this a case of him getting ahead of the science?
Jen Psaki: (32:36)
Well, first of all, I think what you heard Dr. Collins and Dr. Fauci convey yesterday is that this is going to be an ongoing process. I would remind you that the percentage of individuals at this point, who would be eligible to get a booster are largely people over 65, because those are people who would have had the second dose six months ago. If we’re looking at when we’re going to have available data, that’s what the CDC and the FDA looks at. They need enough data to make assessments. No one is suggesting that there will never be boosters. We are suggesting that there needs to be a process to be seen through for when boosters should be approved and when a broader swath of the population is eligible. Go ahead, Kelly.
Back to the international COVID vaccine requirements for travelers, a number of individuals and European allies have been pressing for access to the United States. Families that have been separated, business relationships that have been affected by it. And so before the president goes to the United Nations General Assembly and has meetings with foreign partners, this is when the decision is announced that vaccination will allow people to come into the country. Is that part of the president’s sort of foreign policy outreach this week, the timing of this decision?
Jen Psaki: (33:50)
If we were going to make things much easier for ourselves, we would’ve done it prior to June when the president had his first foreign trip or earlier this summer. This is when the process concluded. We want to make the information available to the public. We’re basing it on science. And when the process concluded, and here we are today.
Do you anticipate that Americans who are coming back to the United States would be affected by this having to be tested? Would there be any opt-out policy for those who don’t want to do that?
Jen Psaki: (34:19)
You mean people who don’t want to be vaccinated who are Americans?
Unvaccinated Americans who would be flying home from foreign travel.
Jen Psaki: (34:25)
So there would still be requirements for these individuals, Americans who are not vaccinated, including providing proof of a negative test, result taken with in one day of their departure. And providing proof they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival for Americans who are not fully vaccinated, which at this point would obviously apply to children as well.
One last point, given the whole political timing, or at least the timing seen in a political context of this vaccine requirement, following up on what Jeremy was asking, does the president go into UN GA knowing that his relationship with allies has hit a bumpy patch?
Jen Psaki: (35:04)
I think the president’s view having been on the world scene for 50 years is that you always have to work on your relationships. And that includes with global leaders, but he believes that our relationships are sustaining over the course of many decades, that every step he’s taken from the moment he took office was with the intention of rebuilding alliances and rebuilding those partnerships that were frayed over the last four years. And his view as I’ve conveyed over the course of the early part of the briefing is that, that doesn’t mean that the bar is we will always agree with everything our partners and allies do, nor will they agree with everything we do, but that our relationships are stronger. They have a stronger basis, and that we have an opportunity to work together on the global issues that the world is facing. That’s what he expects the focus of the next few days to be.
Speaker 7: (35:53)
Some of the president’s counterparts who will be in attendance at the UN this week have not gotten vaccinated. Some have had COVID in the past. Any pause in sending the president into the UN General Assembly chamber and the potential it could be a super spread?
Jen Psaki: (36:08)
We obviously take a range of precautions, including ensuring the president is tested. Obviously he’s vaccinated, but there’s no intention to change our plans to have him deliver a speech there.
Speaker 8: (36:19)
I have a question approaching the line of question that Peter was asking you about, but perhaps approach [inaudible 00:36:24] on behalf of people who look at what happened last week and were disappointed. They may be six plus months out from their second shot and they want a booster shot today.
Jen Psaki: (36:32)
Speaker 8: (36:33)
They don’t want to wait. Can you explain the process to those people and address their concerns? In particular, get to the question of accountability, because it was the eight health experts who surround the president, who were best known to the country, perhaps the most trusted by the country who suggested that this would be the week. Who were these people who were deciding that it shouldn’t be this week or it shouldn’t be people under the age of 65?
Jen Psaki: (36:54)
Well, those eight health experts who you’re right, put out the statement in August based on data that we had, that they had available to them as health experts, suggesting the waning influence or the waning impact, I should say, the waning effectiveness of vaccines. They felt they had a responsibility to make their recommendations, their views public to the American people. That’s exactly what they did. There’s also a process in place for a reason. And I would say, I think any of us would say to anyone who’s frustrated or who wants to have their booster shot now, that process is in place for a reason so that you can trust what the final recommendation and the final outcome is. And it includes obviously last week there was the FDA had their own review and their own process, a formal meeting of the advisory committee. ACIP is meeting this week, but this is not the last meeting.
Jen Psaki: (37:47)
I think that’s important for people to understand and Dr. Fauci referenced this yesterday. There will be additional data. There will be additional data from probably Moderna, from J&J, others in the coming weeks. There’ll be more data for people who are younger than 65. They will look at all of that. This is an ongoing process. This is not a decision that there will never be boosters for others. This is the first step in a process, a positive one in our view about protecting more people, but it is also important to keep the FDA as the gold standard and ensure that process proceeds so people can trust their recommendations. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (38:19)
Thank you. So just to follow up on David’s question. So it sounds like there isn’t an offer in the works to the French to ameliorate some of the harm to the US French relation. No offer in the works to make up for some of the economic damage?
Jen Psaki: (38:33)
The real focus of the meeting or of the call, I should say, whenever it’s finalized and scheduled is about reaffirming our commitment, the president’s commitment, the United State’s commitment to our partnership and to working together on a range of issues, including the Indo-Pacific.
Speaker 9: (38:49)
Just to clarify, that means we’re not offering the French any-
Jen Psaki: (38:52)
I’m not aware of a plan to offer anything.
Speaker 9: (38:54)
And on that drone strike, do you know if there’s any discussion for the administration or for the US to pay some of the families of the victims of the drone strikes?
Jen Psaki: (39:02)
That is something that was referenced-
Speaker 10: (39:03)
… of the victims of the drone strike?
Jen Psaki: (39:03)
That is something that was referenced by… General McKenzie referenced, I should say, ex gratia payments. And they’re exploring that option from the Department of Defense, but I’d really point you to them.
Speaker 10: (39:14)
And then one more thing on the announcement on international travel. Do you know if there’s any discussion right now out about how the US will decide who is vaccinated, what counts as vaccinated? Will the Chinese vaccine count? Will the Russian vaccine count, AstraZeneca? Is there discussion on what exactly is vaccinated?
Jen Psaki: (39:34)
Yes, this is all a part of the process. It’s going to be implemented again in early November. In terms of how the proof of process will work, which is a very good question, that’s part of what the implementation interagency discussions will focus on.
Speaker 10: (39:47)
And we’ll have an answer before November.
Jen Psaki: (39:49)
Yes, exactly. Hopefully sooner than that. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (39:52)
Just a technical thing on the international travel policy. You talk about unvaccinated Americans. What about Green Card holders, visa holders? People who under the current travel policy can get into the country, would they have to be vaccinated, or would they have to do testing protocol like Americans?
Jen Psaki: (40:12)
That’s a really good question. I’ll have to ask what the specification is there for them.
Speaker 11: (40:18)
Okay. And then on immigration and the parliamentarian’s ruling, you’ve sort of gotten at this, but I’m just wondering about the president’s level of commitment to this being in the reconciliation bill. Does it have to be in reconciliation? Is there a point at which it gets thrown overboard, like the minimum wage did? And are there any concerns about losing certain senators, Democratic senators who insist that this be in there?
Jen Psaki: (40:44)
Well, as our comment last night made very clear, the president absolutely supports efforts by senators who’ve already come forward, Leader Schumer has, other senators, about introducing alternate proposals and seeing if they can work them their way through the process. So that’s where we stand right now. I think that reflects his commitment, but obviously we don’t determine the outcome of the parliamentarian process. Go ahead.
Speaker 12: (41:08)
Jen, a follow-up question on Haiti. There are photographs and reports of border agents on horseback using what appear to be whips on Haitian migrants. Does the administration view that as appropriate tactic? Can you speak to that? There are people who are upset about it.
Jen Psaki: (41:23)
Yeah, understandably so. I’ve seen some of the footage. I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate, but I don’t have additional details, and certainly… I don’t have additional context, April. I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.
Speaker 12: (41:44)
The DHS said Saturday that federal agencies will be partnering with the Haitian government to provide assistance to the returnees. Can you elaborate on what that assistance will entail exactly?
Jen Psaki: (41:56)
You mean to the people who are returning to Haiti? Yes. We’ve been in close contact with the government about when people return, what that looks like. Let me get you some more additional details about what that looks like when they get on the ground. Go ahead. Go ahead, Yamiche.
Thanks so much, Jen. I want to follow-up on the question about Haitians, and specifically these photos that are surfacing on border patrol agents seemingly using lips. I know you said that there’s no context that it would be seen as inappropriate, so the question really is why would this be happening under the Biden administration? Is this going to stop? I wonder sort of what are going to be the consequences if what we’re seeing is what we’re seeing.
Jen Psaki: (42:35)
I mean, Yamiche, it’s all good questions. We just saw this footage. It’s horrible to watch. I just have to get more information on it. [crosstalk 00:42:44]. Again, April, I don’t have more information on it. I’ve also seen the video. I can’t imagine what the scenario is where that would be appropriate. I’m certainly not suggesting that, but we’ve just seen the footage earlier this morning.
[crosstalk 00:42:57] also ask… I was talking to Haitian American applicants this weekend. They say that deporting people back to Haiti is like dropping people into a burning house, this idea that the country is just not in a place where it can handle this. Haitian officials have said, “Can you please have a pause on this?” Is there any sort of discussion being made to make exemptions for some of these migrants? If so, who would those people be? Or, are all of these people just going to end up dropped back in Haiti?
Jen Psaki: (43:22)
I mean, we are constantly assessing circumstances on the ground. Obviously, the secretary of state and the secretary of homeland security are the ones who would assess circumstances like TPS status, which would be one that we granted and adjusted over the course of the last several months to account for circumstances on the ground in Haiti. I can’t make any predictions of that, but I would just reiterate that obviously our objective here is to not just work to address the circumstances, which are very difficult in Del Rio, but also to continue to work with the officials in Haiti to improve the conditions, to provide assistance. We’re doing all of these pieces at the same time. It is not just one at the same time, but I can’t predict for you what an assessment would look like or what the outcome of that assessment would look like.
And a quick follow-up on the photo. I know you said that you’re still assessing it, but just to add, if this is what we see, is the president’s stance or the White House’s stance that whoever these border agents are, using what seems to be whips on migrants, that they would be fired or at least never be able to do that again?
Jen Psaki: (44:24)
Of course they should never be able to do it again. I don’t know what the circumstances would be. It’s obviously horrific, the footage. I don’t have any more information on it, so let me venture to do that, and we’ll see if there’s more to convey. Karen, go ahead. [crosstalk 00:44:39]. April, I absolutely understand your question. I think I’ve been very clear about how horrific the footage is. I don’t have more information. As a US official, I have responsibility to get more context and information. Go ahead.
Darlene : (44:50)
Thanks, Jen. Two on COVID. Does the White House have an expectation now on when kids younger than 12 will be able to get the vaccine? Is this before Thanksgiving? Are we thinking the end of October? What’s the latest right now?
Jen Psaki: (45:00)
I also and have self interest, as do you, Karen. I understand. I think you saw Pfizer put out their data. Obviously, that’s just a step. It has to go through the full approval process, so I can’t make a prediction of that at this point. But certainly, we were encouraged to see that, but it needs to move its way through the official government process.
Darlene : (45:20)
And on the international travel today, you talked about the policy process. What was the White House or the administration looking to see in order to get to this point today to make the change? Was it the vaccination rates in Europe? And how will the contact tracing work, and what resource will be put to that? Because that’s not been something we’ve seen a really solid, robust effort in the US on over the last year and a half.
Jen Psaki: (45:44)
Yeah. So this was an ongoing process, as you all know, that we discussed pretty extensively here. CDC is going to issue a contact tracing order that will require airlines to collect comprehensive contact information for every passenger coming to the United States, and to provide that information promptly to the CDC upon request to follow-up with travelers who have been exposed to COVID-19 variants or other pathogens. And these requirements will apply globally. That’s a good example of some of the considerations as we were making these policy decisions we had to account for and plan for, and ensure that we could implement this policy in a way that was clear, that was equitable, that ensured that there was equal treatment around the world of how people could come into the United States, given COVID protocols, but that’s an important question. We wanted to make sure we addressed a lot of those internally as well. Go ahead.
Speaker 13: (46:39)
Also on the international travel announcement, it did not include an opening of the land border [inaudible 00:46:44] south. Is administration worried that any easing at the Southern border would be contributing to the immigration problems? And was that a factor in that decision?
Jen Psaki: (46:53)
Well this is all an ongoing process, right? Title XIX is what is in place, of course, at land borders. It’s being extended for another month through October 21st. We don’t have any updates or predictions at this point in time, but obviously we’re continuing to consider, as is evident by our announcement today, how we can return to a place of travel and people being able to move from country to country, including at our land borders. But I don’t have any prediction of that at this point.
Speaker 14: (47:19)
Jen, you may not have seen this because it happened just minutes before you came out, but the Supreme Court has set a December 1st hearing date for the Mississippi abortion law that’s a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. Any reaction?
Jen Psaki: (47:35)
I had not seen that, you’re correct, before I came out, and I’m sure we can venture to get you a more substantive reaction to that. I think you are all familiar with what the position of this administration is on a woman’s right to choose, as is evidenced by the Department of Justice’s announcement about their intention to file a lawsuit and challenge the Texas law, given our commitment to protecting. I will note, and you may have seen this, but since we’re on this topic, a couple of people have asked over the course of time our position on the Women’s Health Protect Act. We rolled out a statement of administration policy in strong support of this as well this morning. I know, different question, but same pool of topics. Go ahead.
Speaker 15: (48:14)
Thank you so much. Following up on Haiti, some of the Haitian migrants at the border told VOA that they were treated worse than their Spanish-speaking counterparts, that they were denied the chance to change clothing, that they were not given adequate information on their deportation or their deportation status. And we had one guy say to us it was like being in jail. No food, nothing. What is your response to this? Is this policy? And then just secondly, Haitian Americans say that this mass deportation and this treatment of people at the border is the president going back on campaign promises to their community.
Jen Psaki: (48:49)
In which campaign promise?
Speaker 15: (48:52)
To help them kind of get over some of the challenges facing Haiti, and also to help people migrate to the US.
Jen Psaki: (48:59)
Well, the president committed to extending temporary protected status to Haiti, which is something he did. And he extended that, we extended that, to a longer period of time to account for the turmoil on the ground following the assassination on the ground of their leader. So that was the campaign commitment that he made. But I think I can assure people that that is not our policy. Obviously, any circumstance where individuals are not treated humanely, whether they are coming to our border or not, is not in line with the Biden administration policies. This is clearly a very challenging circumstance on the ground, one where we have worked under our Department of Homeland Security to expedite surge resources, which includes World Central Kitchen bringing in meals, the American Red Cross bringing in much-needed resources to the population.
Jen Psaki: (49:49)
These are all steps we’ve taken from a humanitarian perspective. It does not mean that there aren’t individuals, as you evidenced, that didn’t have experiences where they did not have access to these resources. But our policy is to provide resources, is to treat people humanely, but we also need to implement what is our law and what that is implementing Title 42 and continuing to ensure that people who are not coming here lawfully are sent back to the countries they came from. Go ahead. [crosstalk 00:50:22]. Oh, okay. Last one. Okay, yep.
Speaker 16: (50:25)
Two questions on the French sub deal. Lockheed Martin had a major part of that contract between the Australians and the French headquarters down the street, or not far from here. Are they going to be carried over to the new US-UK deal, do you know? Are they going to be involved in that?
Jen Psaki: (50:39)
I’d have to check on the specifics of the deal.
Speaker 16: (50:41)
Second question. When’s the president going to hold another news conference where we can ask our questions to him about all of these issues about inflation, about the border, and Afghanistan?
Jen Psaki: (50:50)
Well, the president took questions probably four or five times last week, so I would point you to that. Thanks, everyone.
Speaker 17: (50:58)
Can we see about getting the Homeland Security secretary [inaudible 00:51:01]-
Jen Psaki: (51:02)
Speaker 17: (51:02)
… questions instead of going to Texas [crosstalk 00:51:03]?
Jen Psaki: (51:02)
You can, but it’s important for us to go to Texas [inaudible 00:51:04]. Thanks, everyone.