Sep 28, 2021
Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript September 28
September 28, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.
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Jen Psaki: (01:25)
Hi everyone. Good afternoon. Hi. Okay. See, I know this is disappointing. I have nothing at the top for you. So let’s just get into whatever you all have questions about.
Speaker 1: (01:38)
Why don’t we start with a testimony on Capitol hill that’s ongoing with General Milley [inaudible 00:01:44] testifying that they believes that 2,500 needed to stay in the Afghan government pulled off the Taliban. The president… there seems to be disconnect between that and how the president described the advice from his military advisors in that ABC interview six or seven weeks ago when he said the Pentagon wanted [inaudible 00:02:05]. So did the president mislead the American public about the advice of his military advisers?
Jen Psaki: (02:11)
Well, let me give you a couple of specifics from the actual transcript, because I know it’s been shorthanded a bit. No mal-intent. But the question asked by George Stephanopoulos was, “But your top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.” President said, ” No, they didn’t. It was split. That wasn’t true. That wasn’t true. It was split.” I think that’s a pretty key part of that phrasing there. Later on George Stephanopoulos said, “So no one told, your military advisors did not tell you, ‘No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that?'” “No. No one said that to me, that I can recall.” I would note today in the testimony that was given by Secretary Austin, by General Milley, they made clear, Secretary Austin specifically said, “If you stayed there at a forced posture of 2,500, certainly you’d be in a fight with the Taliban and you’d have to reinforce.”
Jen Psaki: (03:12)
So what should everybody take from that? There was a range of viewpoints as was evidenced by their testimony today that were presented to the president, that were presented to his national security team as would be expected, as he asked for. He asked for a clear eyed, didn’t ask them not to sugar coat it what their recommendations were. It was also clear and clear to him that that would not be a long standing recommendation, that there would need to be an escalation, an increase in troop numbers. It would also mean war with the Taliban. And it would also mean the potential loss of casualties. The president was just not willing to make that decision. He didn’t think it was in the interest of the American people or the interest of our troops.
Speaker 1: (03:54)
[inaudible 00:03:54] a couple of follow ups on that. [inaudible 00:03:55]. On the reconciliation negotiations, Senators Manchin and Sinema were over here. Are they still over here? Is there agreement on the top line number?
Jen Psaki: (04:06)
So first Senator Sinema was here earlier today. Senator Manchin was still here as of when I came out. He may have wrapped up the meeting, but he was going into the meeting a little while ago. And Senator Sinema had a meeting with the president earlier today. They had a constructive meeting, agreed that we were at a pivotal moment, need to continue to work to finalize the path forward. He asked his team to follow up later this afternoon with her directly to continue the conversation and continue the discussions. I will leave it to them to convey where they are comfortable in terms of top line numbers. But the president felt it was constructive, felt they moved the ball forward, felt there’s a agreement that we’re at a pivotal moment. It’s important to continue to finalize the path forward, to get the job done for the American people.
Speaker 1: (04:53)
An agreement on a pivotal moment but is there an agreement on the number?
Jen Psaki: (04:57)
Again, I would point you to Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin to speak to their viewpoints on where they stand on the package at this point in time. I’m not going to speak on their behalf. I’ll come to you, Beth. I’ll come around to you.
Speaker 2: (05:10)
Back on [inaudible 00:05:10], the president said his military commanders were split. We now know that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, head of CENTCOM, General McKenzie and the commander on the ground, General Miller, all recommended the president keep 2,500 troops. So who in his military advisors told him it’d be fine to pull everybody out?
Jen Psaki: (05:29)
I’m not going to get in specific details of who recommended what, but I would reiterate a little bit of what I conveyed before, which is that there were recommendations made by a range of his advisors, something he welcomed, something he asked them to come to him clear-eyed about to give him candid advice. What is also clear, though, and I would also note again, what Secretary Austin said today is that was not going to be a sustainable over the longterm troop presence. We were always to look at escalating the numbers, at potentially going back to war with the Taliban, at risking casualties. That was not a decision the president was going to make. But of course he welcomes advice. He welcomed advice. Ultimately it’s up to the commander in chief to make a decision. He made a decision it was time to end the 20 year war.
Speaker 2: (06:14)
But you are saying here that’s military advisers to the president said it was okay to pull all the troops out, that it’d be fine.
Jen Psaki: (06:20)
That’s not what I said. What I said was they recommended… I think we should not dumb this down for anybody here. We’re talking about the initial phase, post May one. We’re not talking about long- term recommendations. There was no one who said, five years from now we could have 2,500 troops and that would be sustainable. And I think that’s important for people to know and to understand. It’s also important to know that the risks we were talking about here were the possibility, the likelihood of increasing a troop presence, which we now know to absolutely have been the reality given it required 6,000 troops to just protect the airport. Something we now know.
Speaker 2: (06:55)
But the president told all US troops that. You are saying that there were military commanders who advised him that that was a good idea to pull all the American troops out and that General Milley, General McKenzie, General Miller, they said something else. But the president’s top military advisers, others, we won’t name, told him, sure. We can pull everyone out.
Jen Psaki: (07:14)
That’s not how these conversations go. It’s a risk assessment for every president about what is in the interest of the United States of America, our military and our national interests. And if we had kept 2,500 troops there, we would have increased the number of troops, we would have been at war with the Taliban, we would have had more US casualties. That was a reality. Everybody was clear-eyed about. There are some, as is evidenced by people testifying today, who felt we should have still done that. That is not the decision the president made. It’s up to the commander in chief to make those decisions. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (07:46)
Jen, thanks. It might be helpful if you could just tell us, what do you mean by split? What were they split between?
Jen Psaki: (07:52)
What’s confusing about that?
Speaker 3: (07:54)
Well, it’s either, one, they were advising that 2,500 troops should remain on the ground or two that someone was advising that it should be zero.
Jen Psaki: (08:05)
Well, again, [inaudible 00:08:07] I think it’s important for the American people to know that these conversations don’t happen in black and white or like you’re in the middle of a movie. These conversations are about a range of options about what the risk assessments are about every decision. And of course there are individuals who come forward with a range of recommendations on what the right path forward looks like. I’m not going to detail those from here, they’re private conversations and advice to the president of the United States. Ultimately, regardless of the advice, it’s his decision. He’s the commander in chief, he’s the president. He makes decisions about the what’s in the national interest and he believed we should end the war.
Speaker 3: (08:43)
More broadly, who does he consider to be his top military advisors?
Jen Psaki: (08:49)
He considers, of course, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He considers a range of advice from his national security team, his secretary of state, his national security advisor and others who can he asked for candid advice from.
Speaker 3: (09:06)
Today General Milley also testified that he spoke with several authors for their books about the former president. Does President Biden think that’s appropriate?
Jen Psaki: (09:17)
I’m not going to make an evaluation on that from here. Obviously, the chairman makes his own decisions about that.
Speaker 3: (09:24)
Does the White House not have to sign off anytime an SAO, senior administration official sorry, speaks to the press?
Jen Psaki: (09:31)
We certainly give people advice on what people are writing about and whether it’s constructive for them to engage with it. But individuals do make a range of decisions [inaudible 00:09:41]
Speaker 3: (09:41)
But did you advice him before-
Jen Psaki: (09:43)
I don’t have anything more for you [inaudible 00:09:45]. Go ahead.
As we sit here today, does President Biden believe that his military advisors supported his decision to withdraw all US troops based on their own judgments?
Jen Psaki: (09:56)
Well, Kelly, I think what you heard them say during their testimony is that about certain stages, they gave a variety of advice, which is accurate and something the president of course welcomes. He ultimately had to make the decision as the commander in chief about what is in our national interests. You also heard Secretary Austin make clear about the commitment of delivering on what the president had decided. And the fact that if we left troops in there past September 1st, we would have been at war with the Taliban. So I think what’s important for people to take away from the testimony today is that it reiterated and confirms a lot of what we’ve been talking about over the past couple of months. About what the risks were of keeping troops on the ground, what the Taliban’s intentions were, what the impact was of the deal that was struck by the prior administration directly with the Taliban that released 5,000 Taliban fighters into Afghanistan without the engagement of the Afghan government. Those are all the repercussions and the impact. And yes, they gave their advice as they should and then they implemented the president’s decision.
So knowing the president gets to make this decision knowing he may have to make further decisions going down the line. So not looking at the history, what I think the public wants to know if the generals and military advisors give advice, how will the president use and process that and how will he talk about it publicly? That matters to the public. Did the president convey accurately what these generals were saying to him?
Jen Psaki: (11:23)
He conveyed in the interview. In what aspects?
Well, in the interview and then going forward, can they understand how the president will use that kind of information when we see there’s a conflict between what the generals were saying and the president’s public statements with respect to Afghanistan.
Jen Psaki: (11:40)
Well, the president made clear that the advice was split. He didn’t outline what every individual conveyed to him in private advices. I don’t think anyone in the American public would expect. Obviously they’re testifying before Congress today. They’re answering questions accurately. They’re providing more detail on their advice as they should. That’s how that process works and as they should. I think what the American people should know is the president is always going to welcome a range of advice. He asked for candor, he asked for directness. And in any scenario, he’s not looking for a bunch of yes men and women. And what that means is that ultimately he’s going to have to make the decision about what’s in the best interest of the United States. If there’s conflicting advice given, by necessity, some people’s advice will not be taken. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (12:27)
So what is the White House’s reaction to some other aspects of General Milley’s testimony? He said among other things, that it was a mistake for two successive American presidents to have a date faced or date certain withdrawal at an ought to be conditioned based. He also indicated in his testimony the idea of the US credibility would be damaged. It would be a word that should be looked at. What’s the White House’s response to those aspects of his testimony today?
Jen Psaki: (12:49)
Well, first I would say that Secretary Austin spoke directly about our credibility in the world during the same testimony. And he said our credibility remains solid and people place great trust and confidence in America. And what we also look at is the fact that the NATO secretary general has affirmed that our allies were consulted on the president’s decisions. We communicated to the Afghans and to our allies. And since the time of the withdrawal, we worked to get 100 countries together to unite in an effort to make clear that the international community’s expectations, what they are of the Taliban led government. That shows the United States still has power, still has trust, still has partnerships in the world, even as it relates to Afghanistan. What was the first part of your question?
Speaker 4: (13:33)
General Milley specifically said that he believed that is a mistake for there to be date certain withdrawals versus conditions based. He said that was a lesson he learned. Does the president agree with that? Does this White House acknowledge that it was a mistake? And is there any, not to say second guessing, but is there any thought that perhaps a mistake was made?
Jen Psaki: (13:51)
In which piece? when did we set a deadline for withdrawal? You’re talking about September 1st?
Speaker 4: (13:55)
The general said that the two successive American presidents made the mistake of setting dates. So this president had first September 11th, and then-
Speaker 4: (14:03)
… and so this president had first September 11th, and then he adjusted to August 31st. General Milley indicated that that was a mistake.
Jen Psaki: (14:08)
Well, to be clear, we had a May 1st timeline with no plan. We had a deadline, and no plan for withdrawal that we walked into when the president was inaugurated and took office. The September 1st timeline was related to, was based on the recommendations of the military, and on the timeline needed to operationally effectively and safely withdraw our troops once the president made the decision to withdraw our troops. So it’s not the same thing.
Speaker 4: (14:34)
I do want to ask you one more question. General Milley also said that he wasn’t asked about whether to keep troops on the ground until August 25th. Is that true?
Jen Psaki: (14:41)
Say that one more time.
Speaker 4: (14:42)
Well, General Milley said he wasn’t asked by the president whether to keep troops on the ground until August 25th.
Jen Psaki: (14:47)
Past September 1st.
Speaker 4: (14:49)
Past September 1st? I suppose that was the question, but can you confirm?
Jen Psaki: (14:53)
Well, the context of that is pretty important, isn’t it?
Speaker 4: (14:56)
Sure. So what more context can you add?
Jen Psaki: (14:58)
Well, I’m saying that because when you say August 25th, people would infer that to mean that he wasn’t asked for his point of view on what our approach should be until then. That’s not accurate. There were ongoing daily discussions in The Situation Room where the president asked for advice, for viewpoints from the military, from his national security team about how we should proceed as it related to August 31st. That’s no secret. We made that clear certainly at the time. I’d also note that during the testimony, General Milley also made clear that we would have gone to the war with the Taliban had we not withdrawn by September 1st. That was also advice he gave privately. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (15:38)
Thank you, Jen. Quick question on energy crisis. Oil prices have reached $80 a barrel, first time in three years. There is an energy crisis underway, China, UK, Europe. We understand from the White House that you are monitoring the situation. What in the near term is the White House doing to ease pressure on the market? Are there any conversations that you are having with OPEC, or you’re planning to have with OPEC that you can tell us a little bit more about? And we also know that Jake Sullivan is in Saudi. He’s planning to meet with MDS, although that is about Yemen. Does he plan to bring this up during that meeting?
Jen Psaki: (16:16)
Well, we continue to speak to international partners, including OPEC on the importance of competitive markets, and setting prices, and doing more to support the recovery. We’re, obviously, monitoring, as you’ve already alluded to, and I would note that last month, our NEC director, Brian Deese also sent a letter to FTC chair, Lina Khan, asking the FTC to use all of its available tools to monitor US gasoline market, and address any illegal conduct that might be contributing to price increases. The FTC responded, committing to take specific actions to identify, deter, and investigate.
Jen Psaki: (16:51)
I’d also note that Jake Sullivan also put out a statement at the time, which you referred to. The engagements he has in the Middle East and with the Saudis, specifically the meetings with the Saudis, are really focused on Yemen. Our Yemen… Our envoy is participating in a part of those conversations. That’s really the focus. So I don’t have a further readout beyond that at this point about how the conversations have gone. Obviously, our national security advisor has been deeply engaged, but that’s not the focus or the purpose of his trip
Speaker 5: (17:21)
And specifically in terms of sort of regulatory action from the FTC, that is, obviously, going to take some time, but the pressure on the market is building up right now. I mean, are there perhaps any, again, conversations on reaching out to the emergency stockpile to ease some pressure on the market? Is there anything being done in the near term?
Jen Psaki: (17:40)
I don’t have anything in the near term to preview for you. Obviously, that’s up to the FTC in terms of their timeline, but I would assure you, we are not only engaged with OPEC, we’re looking at every means we have to lower gas prices, but I don’t have… Or address the cost of oil, I should say, but I don’t have anything else to preview for you
Speaker 5: (17:58)
And a question quickly on Senator Warren’s comments on the Fed chair. She said, “She will not support his reappointment. She said, “He’s a dangerous man who’s harmed the country’s banking industry.” Does the White House have a comment on that? And where is the president with his decision on reappointing a Fed Chair?
Jen Psaki: (18:15)
I understand the interest. I don’t have anything on personnel announcements to make, and nothing further on Senator Warren’s comments. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (18:21)
One Milley question, and then a couple on the agenda.
Jen Psaki: (18:24)
Speaker 6: (18:24)
General Milley was asked if he echoed the president’s term using extraordinary success for what transpired in August, and Milley said, “It was a logistical success, but a strategic failure.” I think those are two different things. Is that kind of an accurate assessment from your guys’ view of what transpired in August??
Jen Psaki: (18:39)
Well, he later made clear and clarified that he was referring to the 20 Year War as a strategic failure, and of course, the president agrees. We were there for far too long. We should have withdrawn sooner, and that it was a war that was long overdue to come to an end.
Speaker 6: (18:53)
And then a couple on the domestic agenda. I understand what you’re saying about passing Senator Sinema and Manchin, but a lot of Democrats on the hill want the president to press for that top line. I think that’s crucial to the Thursday vote. Was that his intent today? Because that seemed to be the view on the Hill of what he was trying to do with these meetings today.
Jen Psaki: (19:11)
Well, I can assure you that when he has conversations, they’re quite candid, they’re direct, and he’s had a long relationship, a good relationship with Senator Sinema, as he has had with Senator Manchin, who has been meeting with. I’m not sure if the meeting has ended yet, but I’m going to keep those private. And we’re, obviously, at a very sensitive time right now in these discussions, a pivotal time in these discussions, and I understand the interest, but I’m going to try not to say anything that gets me fired today. I enjoy speaking with you all so much every day.
Speaker 9: (19:42)
Jen, [inaudible 00:19:43].
Speaker 6: (19:44)
Just one more. And I’m not trying to be clever here.
Jen Psaki: (19:46)
No, go ahead.
Speaker 6: (19:46)
Speaker Pelosi wrote a Dear Colleague Letter today. It says, “As I write this, negotiations are being led by president Biden to advance his agenda.” Is there because it’s an inflection point are the roles changing in terms of who’s needing things right now, what the role between the speaker, the leader, and the president are? Am I reading too much into that? How do you view the president’s role right now?
Jen Psaki: (20:07)
I would say the president is deeply engaged. I know we’ve read out some of the calls and meetings he’s had. We haven’t read all of them out in terms of the engagements and calls he’s had. He’s talked with a range of members across the political spectrum in the democratic party, I can assure you, but I would say the way he sees it is that he’s working together in lockstep with Speaker Pelosi, with Leader Schumer to get this done. They are all clearheaded. I know I said this yesterday, but it’s worth repeating about the challenges of what we are pressing to achieve this week. As you all know, he spoke with them last night, he will continue to remain closely engaged with them, and so he’s working, I would say, in lockstep in partnership with the speaker and the leader. Go ahead.
So I’m going to try one more along those lines.
Jen Psaki: (20:52)
Go to it.
And then I have another reconciliation question.
Jen Psaki: (20:55)
Is there a sense in which the president’s posture in these discussions with Manchin, Sinema, and the rest has changed over the course of the last week? In other words, is he listening? Does he go into these meetings to listen, to hear what they’re saying? Is he going into these meetings to tell them what he wants from them? And has that dynamic changed in the sense of him being more forceful about what he wants to achieve in these negotiations and discussions, because we’re coming up against that deadline. [inaudible 00:21:34].
Jen Psaki: (21:35)
Wasn’t that a better way to try to do that?
Jen Psaki: (21:38)
That was good. That was good, Mike. You led me down a rabbit hole there. Look, I think these are a discussion, these meetings. The president, as you all know, was in the Senate for 36 years. He didn’t want any president to tell him what to do. He’s not going to tell anyone what to do. He is going to have a discussion, have an engagement. Those can be direct. Those can be candid. Those can be straightforward.
Jen Psaki: (21:59)
And as I noted earlier on, this is clearly a pivotal moment. This is clearly a sensitive time. And there was agreement, which is a good sign, that we need to press forward and work to get these packages across the finish line. That’s a good thing, but I’m going to keep the tone, and tenor, and flow of who had more words in the meetings private at this point in time.
Okay, one more. One more question on the reconciliation. You guys have made, a lot of the administration officials have made a lot about the idea that the cost of the program is zero, and by that I expect you mean net zero to the treasury, once you sort of take into account the money that’s raised versus the money that spent, correct?
Jen Psaki: (22:45)
Yes, it doesn’t… I know none of us are mathematicians, otherwise, we wouldn’t be here, but, yes.
But, but, but…
Jen Psaki: (22:49)
Of the investments that were proposed, including tax cuts and the pay-fors, including making the tax system more fair, zero.
Okay. But do you guys acknowledge the sort of broader truth that it’s not… That it does cost somebody, right? That the cost of the investments that the president wants to make don’t simply… They’re not simply a free lunch, right? Whether they’re going to cost people who smoke cigarettes, or they’re going to cost business people, or they’re going to cost companies, or they’re going to cost rich people, the cost of what the president wants to do over the course of the next decade and beyond falls on somebody. Right?
Jen Psaki: (23:27)
But there’s a clear difference between what we’re talking about as it relates to taxpayer funds, right? Or funding that will lead to our debt. Right? Which I know a lot of Republicans are supposedly concerned about and asking businesses. 50 of the top companies last year in 2020, paid not a dollar in taxes. A lot of high income individuals pay lower tax rates than nurses and teachers. Nobody thinks that’s fair. Yes, were asking them to pay more. Yes. So it will cost them more. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (24:01)
Thank you, Jen. Just a question on the debt limit. I wanted to see if you guys are raising the possibility of using reconciliation to raise the debt limit, particularly as this October 8th deadline, or excuse me, the October 18th date is fast approaching?
Jen Psaki: (24:19)
Yeah. So we, obviously, wanted to do this in a bipartisan fashion, as we’ve talked about quite a bit in here. It’s a shared responsibility. It’s been done 80 times in a bipartisan manner in the past, and now Leader Schumer wants Democrats to be able to do it alone if Republicans refuse to help. So that’s really what is being pursued at this point in time. In terms of the mechanisms of that, I’d certainly point you to Leader Schumer’s office. It’s also our hope that if Senator McConnell isn’t going to help us avoid a default and a shutdown, at least he’ll get out of the way, and let Democrats do it alone, so we can avoid a default. And right now that question remains up in the air
Speaker 7: (24:59)
Is one other option to get rid of the filibuster to do this? I mean, without a filibuster it would be much easier for Democrats to do that.
Jen Psaki: (25:06)
I certainly understand the question, the interest, but the president’s position has not changed on that. Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (25:13)
Thanks, Jen. I have a question about the not raising taxes on people who make under $400,000.
Jen Psaki: (25:19)
Speaker 8: (25:21)
Would a carbon tax violate that rule, or would there be some way with a rebate, something like that, to make it okay with your criteria?
Jen Psaki: (25:31)
Well, so on the carbon tax, first, let me just say that there are a lot of ideas being debated. President has asked members to submit their own proposals, including on critical issues like how to address the crisis of climate change. So I just throw that out there, because there’s a lot of revenue raisers, and a lot of options that are out there. Obviously, the president put forward his own plan for addressing climate change that doesn’t involve a corporate carbon fee, but as you can see from the corporate polluter fee embraced in the bipartisan infrastructure deal, polluter fees on corporations do not conflict with the $400,000 pledge. So in our view, that would be one way, but again, there’s a range of revenue raisers and options on the table. The president didn’t propose this one. They’re looking at a range of options, and obviously, we’re at a pivotal moment, as we’ve said. Go ahead, Jackie.
Thanks, Jen. On reconciliation, one more. Has the president given a top line number to members of Congress that he would accept, that’s less than three and a half trillion?
Jen Psaki: (26:30)
The president always knew it would be a compromise. That’s why he’s been engaging with and listening to a range of members on their points of view. Some have expressed publicly that they’re not comfortable with a 3.5, even though zero cost $0, but I’m not going to speak on their behalf of what they’re advocating or negotiating with each other. The president is just looking to unite the party to get across the finish line.
It sounds like he has given a number then.
Jen Psaki: (26:55)
No, I wouldn’t say that. I would say he is hearing from a range of members on what they’re comfortable with. That’s part of the discussions right now.
Okay. And then President Obama said on ABC about the border, “Immigration…”
Jen Psaki: (27:07)
Was it an Obama or President Biden?
President Obama on ABC said, “Immigration is tough.” This was an interview that aired on Good Morning America.
Jen Psaki: (27:15)
Got it. Yes.
“Immigration is tough. It has always been because on one hand, I think we’re naturally a people that wants to help others, at the same time, we’re a nation state. We have borders. The idea that we can just have open borders is something that as a practical matter is unsustainable.” Does President Biden agree with President Obama that open borders is unsustainable?
Jen Psaki: (27:36)
We don’t have open borders. So, yes, he agrees.
Okay. And then did the White House have any discussions with ABC or President Obama about the content of that interview?
Jen Psaki: (27:44)
Not that I’m aware of. Obviously, the current president, the former president are friends, and they engage on a regular basis, but I’m not aware of any conversations about [crosstalk 00:27:53].
And then I wanted to ask about the Secretary Mayorkas yesterday. He said that the administration is continuing to message to the diaspora community that migrants should not-
… message to the diaspora community that migrants should not take the journey, but he also said in the same sentence that the now 13,000 who’ve been released into the US is an appropriate figure and a function of our operational capacity. How should migrants hear both of those messages at the same time and not think that they should come and expect the same treatment?
Jen Psaki: (28:24)
Well, by the same treatment, the 13,000 or 12,000 individuals we’re talking about here are put into immigration proceedings. When they’re put into immigration proceedings, it does not mean they get to stay in the United States. There are some exceptions, as the Secretary spoke about when he was here on Friday, to Title 42, which we’re still continuing to administer. That includes if individuals have immediate health concerns, if they are expressing fear. And these are considered as a part of our immigration proceedings and our immigration process.
Jen Psaki: (28:59)
But when they go into immigration proceedings, they are given a notice to appear. Many have ankle bracelets. Their biometric data is taken, and they are expected to appear back in immigration court. So it is not accurate to suggest, or for anyone who is contemplating coming to the border to think, that they are going to come to the border and be allowed to stay long-term in the United States. There’s an immigration process, immigration proceedings. Of course, people get their day in court, but they go through that process.
These cases are taking two-and-a-half years on average. To people living in conditions that they’re trying to flee, that is long-term.
Jen Psaki: (29:36)
Well, I would say first that we are still applying Title 42. We are still sending people away at the border. And again, individuals who come who do meet any of those criteria go through an immigration process, immigration proceedings. But some of those conditions are being in ICE detention facilities. Some of those conditions are being secured with ankle bracelets or, again, giving their biometric data. It’s not an easy process or an easy system, and absolutely nothing is guaranteed. It has to go through our own immigration process. But again, our system is broken. It needs to be fixed. That’s what we’d love to work with Republicans on.
Is the administration doing anything to prepare for this second group that we’re now expecting on the southern border within the next month or so? There have been reports that the numbers could be between 15 and 20,000 more migrants.
Jen Psaki: (30:23)
We’re continuing to apply Title 42 at the border. We are continuing to convey, through a range of means, communicating directly with people through paid media and otherwise, this is not the time to come. I would note that while there are a number of people who are in the immigration proceedings process, there are also thousands of people who went back across the border when they realized they could not stay here and could not stay in the camp and would not be able to stay in the United States. So there are some deterrence mechanisms that have been put in place. Obviously, our Department of Homeland Security continues to prepare in any scenario as we look to migrants coming to approach the border. Go ahead, Lynn.
Obama gave that interview in connection with his being in Chicago today for the ceremonial groundbreaking of his presidential site, which goes back to your original story that answered here. My question is about President Biden in Chicago tomorrow. I need some details that you haven’t given out, what you want to do for the business vaccination event that you want to do. A source says to me you’re also going to suburban Chicago. I need some more information on that. And since you have so many options on where to go around the nation to promote your policies, why in specific did you pick Chicago? You know I don’t want a general answer.
Jen Psaki: (31:43)
Okay? Lynn, always a pleasure to see you. Lynn, so we will get you absolutely all the details on the business in intricate detail, and everyone here who wants that detail, we will give it to them as well. He is going to Chicago because he wants to lift up and communicate, not to just people of Chicago, but the people of the country, about the effectiveness of vaccine mandates, how they can work for businesses, how they can make workplaces safer and how they can be constructive to our economy. This is a place where we’ve identified some options to do exactly that. So that’s why he’s headed to Chicago tomorrow.
But that doesn’t tell me why he picked Chicago. There are other places that could maybe do that. And then what about whatever he’s going to do in the suburban stops the source tells me about?
Jen Psaki: (32:24)
I promise you we will get you details. It will not be generic. We will get you details after the briefing. Even as we speak, check your email. We’ll see if we can get you details while we’re talking here. Go ahead, Sabrina.
Thank you. Does the White House support Speaker Pelosi’s decision to hold a vote on infrastructure without also doing reconciliation in tandem?
Jen Psaki: (32:41)
Well, let me be clear. The president is committed to getting both pieces of legislation passed and across the finish line, as is Speaker Pelosi, as is Leader Schumer. We are working in lockstep to get both of those pieces of legislation done. One is absolutely not being dropped. Anyone who thinks that, that’s not true or accurate. We certainly trust the Speaker. We trust Leader Schumer. And obviously the President is playing his role in getting these pieces across the finish line.
What is President Biden’s message to House progressives who are threatening to vote the infrastructure bill down on Thursday? And is he planning to speak directly with progressives this week?
Jen Psaki: (33:15)
As I just noted, he has spoken with a range of Democrats from different parts of the party. He has, and he will continue to. I’d also note that our team, senior members of the White House team, have had even more conversations than the president, to be expected. In September, the White House senior staff or members of the legislative team had over 260 engagements on Build Back Better with members and their senior teams, over 50 with departments so they could provide specific policy expertise. That’s the level of detail and granularity we’ve been focused on over the past month or so.
Question on a separate matter. The Journal published an investigation today, revealing that more than 131 federal judges traded stock of companies that appeared in cases in their courtrooms. This comes after two Federal Reserve presidents resigned earlier this week over stockholding controversies. What is President Biden’s position on federal judges, Federal Reserve officials, members of Congress and other officials in the administration owning and trading shares of companies that could appear before them in an official capacity?
Jen Psaki: (34:14)
Well, obviously every scenario is different, but I will say that the President expects that everyone serving as a public servant should be held to the highest standards, ethical standards. Obviously, we respect the independence of the Federal Reserve. They’ve made their own announcements there. Beyond that, that certainly is the expectation.
Will he support legislation to bar stock trading and stockholder members-
Jen Psaki: (34:35)
I’d have to look at … We’d have to look specific legislation to see what it looks like. Yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 10: (34:40)
Jen, can you confirm that President Biden will be meeting with Pope Francis October 29th at the Vatican?
Jen Psaki: (34:44)
I don’t have anything about the trip to confirm at this point in time. Go ahead. Go ahead. Lots of people have different sources. I have nothing yet on the trip. As soon as we have it, I promise we’ll share it with all of you. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (34:55)
Thank you so much. How important is getting the reconciliation package to the President’s credibility as he goes into Glasgow? And if he doesn’t get the deal made, will the US be able to get other countries to believe our commitments and make serious ones of their own?
Jen Psaki: (35:08)
Well, as you know, former Secretary Kerry, members of our climate team, members of our national security team have been working around the clock to secure commitments as we lead up to Glasgow. I think the President’s record and his commitment on climate is evident to the global community. He rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement. He took steps himself through his own executive authorities to put in place climate-friendly actions, including as it relates to the auto industry. He’s been an advocate and the author of, or the author of the ideas, the bold ideas in the Build Back Better agenda.
Jen Psaki: (35:42)
So I can’t speak to how other countries will assess, but I can convey that his record is clear. Addressing the climate crisis is atop and front-and-center of his agenda. He conveys that to world leaders, and that’s certainly something that former Secretary Kerry, our climate envoy and others are conveying in their conversations leading up to Glasgow.
Speaker 3: (36:01)
And just one more question. Has President Biden been too passive in dealing with Congress on some key matters? Today we saw Senator Warren turning against Powell. Some Democrats are criticizing him over not being involved enough in the debt ceiling and infrastructure talks. Has the President thought about staying far enough ahead of these issues to keep them from blowing up among Democrats?
Jen Psaki: (36:22)
I’m not sure that’s a criticism in terms of him not being engaged enough that’s actually coming from members, but you can tell me if you have members who have said that.
Speaker 3: (36:31)
Deputy Dingell said it yesterday.
Jen Psaki: (36:32)
That he’s not engaged in getting the Build Back Better agenda passed?
Speaker 3: (36:38)
He said that she wanted him to take a more aggressive stance.
Jen Psaki: (36:40)
In what way did she say? I didn’t see her comments.
Speaker 3: (36:42)
I don’t have the transcript in front of me.
Jen Psaki: (36:43)
Okay. Look, I would say, as I just conveyed, the President or senior members of his White House team had over 260 engagements on Build Back Better. We’ve done 50 briefings with different departments on policy components. The President proposed the entirety of this agenda. These are based on his bold and ambitious ideas, and he has hosted a range of meetings here, gone across the country and communicated about his agenda.
Jen Psaki: (37:12)
So I would say that he knows pretty well how to get legislation passed and through. Sometimes that means private conversations. Sometimes it means private meetings. Sometimes it means public speeches. And obviously the proof will be in the pudding if we get the legislation passed. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (37:27)
All right, Jen, just two questions about immigration. First, the State of Florida, as you’re probably aware, announced a lawsuit today that it’s filing. Governor DeSantis also issued an executive order in which he tells Florida agencies that they shouldn’t be quote, aiding or abetting the federal government when it comes to what they’re saying is a violation of US immigration policy. Does the White House have a response to that lawsuit?
Jen Psaki: (37:56)
I haven’t seen details of the lawsuit. It’s about immigration, it sounds like?
Speaker 4: (37:59)
It has to do with they’re saying that the rules of the border aren’t being enforced, that the administration has.
Jen Psaki: (38:05)
I haven’t seen details of the lawsuit. What I will say is that any Republican or any member who wants to have a constructive conversation about solutions to addressing what we all agree is not a long-term, sustainable operational or moral approach to immigration, we’re happy to have that conversation.
Speaker 4: (38:22)
And then on a related point, Secretary Blinken met with the Dominican foreign minister today. Obviously DR officials have been talking about their concerns about the international community needing to play a more active role in stabilizing Haiti. Does Secretary Blinken agree that there needs to be more international cooperation, or-
Jen Psaki: (38:40)
I think the State Department is going to have the best read-out of that meeting and more details than I would have. Simon, go ahead.
Thank you. I have a couple of questions on Ethiopia and then Zambia and Afghanistan. On Ethiopia, it’s been 11 days since the President authorized sanction to be used against those on undermining peace in Ethiopia. And nothing seems to have changed up to now. Does the President have a deadline? Does he expect anything to happen for the sanction to go into effect?
Jen Psaki: (39:10)
So for people who are not following this as closely, because we haven’t talked about this a lot in here. So on September 17th, President Biden signed an executive order establishing a new sanctions regime to help push for a resolution of the ongoing crisis in Northern Ethiopia. We’re continuing to urge, from our diplomats and certainly members of our team on the ground or nearby, urging the parties to end ongoing hostilities, take steps to initiate discussions to achieve a negotiated ceasefire and grant unimpeded humanitarian access.
Jen Psaki: (39:42)
The United Nations Secretary General, African Union leaders and a growing number of international actors have made clear there is no military solution. Unless the parties to the conflict make clear changes, the administration is prepared to take aggressive action under this executive order to impose targeted sanctions. So the executive order gives sanctions authority. Imposing targeted sanctions would be the next step here. It gives us the authority to do exactly that.
Jen Psaki: (40:09)
I would also note that we are continuing to provide substantial humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia totalling over $1 billion this year alone. And we’ll continue to support the people of Ethiopia with assistance throughout the country. And certainly this issue deserves continued attention.
And last week the White House was hosted for the first time two African president, the president of Ghana, President Akufo-Addo, and the president of Zambia. Was anything achieved during those meetings? And why were they not received by the President himself since he received the prime minister of India, Japan and Australia?
Jen Psaki: (40:49)
Why were they not received in the same way?
Why were they not received by the President himself? They were received by the Vice-President.
Jen Psaki: (40:56)
Oh sure. Look, first of all, I would say that the President is absolutely committed to our relationships with Africa and calling out issues where we have concern, but also looking for places we can work together. Having the Vice-President of the United States have these high-level meetings shows the commitment of the Biden-Harris administration to these relationships and to having open and constructive dialogues. And hopefully the leaders who were here will take it as exactly that. I just have to jump. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ve just got to jump around because I’ve got to get some more people. Karen, go ahead.
Thanks. According to the Labor Department, the childcare industry is down more than 125,000 workers nationwide, which is more than a 10% drop since before the pandemic. When the President is having these conversations with lawmakers right now about the Reconciliation Bill, how much of a priority is it for him to ensure that funding for childcare workers is included in that final bill?
Jen Psaki: (41:51)
Well, clearly it was a part of his initial proposal, so that tells you that it’s a priority. And certainly he recognizes the role that childcare workers, many of whom also have challenges that are preventing them-
Jen Psaki: (42:03)
… that childcare workers, many of whom also have challenges that are preventing them from being in the workforce. Maybe it’s their own childcare needs. Maybe it’s elder care that they are affording and paying for. And there are a range of impacts that all of these components have on the reduction of childcare workers, I would say. Also, fear of COVID and fear of not being safe in workplaces. So I’m not going to prioritize from here as discussions are ongoing, but certainly it was a priority to the president, given it was his initial proposal, and there are many advocates on Capitol Hill and in the American public for this as well.
In terms of impact as you just said, just since June, there’s been more than 10,000 childcare workers who’ve left the end industry, and many are taking jobs that have higher increasing wages. How quickly could the Build Back Better agenda have an impact? How quickly could funding potentially reverse this trend we’re seeing?
Jen Psaki: (42:54)
It’s a great question, Karen. I can check with our Labor Department and see if there’s more specifics on projections. I would say that this is a 10-year plan. It’s meant to address challenges over the long-term, certainly something that would be implemented as soon as it’s passed into law. But in terms of the projections of the immediacy of the impact, I’d have to check with our economists in the Labor Department. George, go ahead.
Thanks, Jen. It’s hard to find a good precedent for this morning’s hearings. Given the importance of civilian control of the military, are you at all uncomfortable with the generals testifying so openly and candidly about their advice to the president or disagreements with the president?
Jen Psaki: (43:33)
We aren’t. We feel this is a part of democracy. The president values the candid advice of the secretary, of the joint chiefs, and of his military advisors, as well as members of his national security team. It doesn’t mean he agrees always with every component and every element of advice, but he welcomes the candor, he welcomes the debate, and that’s the kind of president that he will continue to be. Go ahead.
Yeah, I wanted to follow-up actually on this question. Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller, a Marine officer who questioned the withdrawal and questioned, essentially, the commander in chief has been put in jail. Does President Biden believe that that is appropriate, given that President Biden called Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman a hero for speaking out against his commander in chief, even testified in Capitol Hill while in uniform? So how is this different? Especially since you just said the president welcomes the candor and the advice of his military advisors, does the president also see Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller as a hero?
Jen Psaki: (44:36)
I don’t have all the details on these circumstances. I understand that’s going to be frustrating to you, but we will work to get you an answer on it.
Jen Psaki: (44:43)
Okay. I just wanted to follow-up on a question from Friday. Could you comment on the report over the weekend that the US government had planned to kidnap Julian Assange? How concerned is the White House about these reports? Is it going to investigate them? And Edward Snowden tweeted about this, saying, “Maybe after the story that the government literally plotted to murder Assange, this White House will finally stop stonewalling the press pool over the dubious charges against Assange, the single biggest press freedom case in the United States.” Can you respond?
Jen Psaki: (45:18)
I would say I would point you to the Department of Justice about espionage charges, and I would point you to the CIA about the other report you asked about. Go ahead.
With respect to press freedom?
Jen Psaki: (45:27)
I think I spoke to that on Friday. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (45:30)
Thank you, Jen. The president has not shied away from the historical implications of leaving Afghanistan. He’s noted that it was time to end a 20-year war. He has said that he is not going to pass this war on to a fifth president. So given that he understands the gravity, and he has framed it in the historical context, I know that you said you’re not going to detail private conversations, but can you give us a little bit more of an explanation as to why not? Doesn’t the American public, given the historical gravity of that decision, don’t they deserve to know who was advising the president and who was on the other side of that argument about leaving troops in Afghanistan?
Jen Psaki: (46:11)
I would say first that what the American public can know and understand is that the president will welcome and take and ask for and push for a range of opinions on every national security decision that he makes. And we’re not going to detail those private discussions, private decisions that happen in the situation room for the public. What the president has also been very candid and clear about and will continue to be, and you outlined much of this, is why he made the decision that he made. And even as it relates to the recommendation on 2,500, it’s also important for the American public to understand that was not going to be a sustainable number over the long-term. And what the decision he was making was about was not sending their daughters, their sons, their grandchildren, back to fight a war that the Afghans would not fight themselves, and it was about a phase, not a long-term recommendation.
Speaker 11: (47:04)
And then two quick follow-ups. Yesterday, I asked you about the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which sailed through the Senate with bipartisan support. Can you tell us where the president stands on that legislation? And then another follow-up, you mentioned the monitoring devices such as ankle bracelets and biometrics that some of these folks are being outfitted with as they await their court date. Is there a percentage that you can tell us about how many folks have been issued that biometric?
Jen Psaki: (47:35)
That’s part of the process.
Speaker 11: (47:37)
[inaudible 00:47:37] you tell us how many have been already issued that, or is that happening later?
Jen Psaki: (47:41)
Biometric… That’s required as it relates to putting people back into the immigration proceedings. The Department of Homeland Security can give you the rundown, but that’s part of the standard process.
Speaker 11: (47:50)
Okay. And then the Uyghur-
Jen Psaki: (47:52)
Sure. The president has of course expressed concern, as you know, in the past about the treatment of Uyghurs, has of course raised that as it has been raised directly with the Chinese. As it relates to the legislation, we don’t have a position at this point in time on this particular piece of legislation. But I will note that we have implemented measures to promote accountability for individuals and entities implicated in human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang. This includes… Steps we’ve taken on our own, I should say. Visa restrictions, Global Magnitsky and financial sanctions, export controls, import restrictions, the release of a business advisory, and committed to taking action to ensure all global supply chains are free from the use of forced labor at the G7. I know it’s passed the Senate, but I don’t think it has moved in the House at this point in time, the status. Thank you.
Speaker 11: (48:43)
Speaker 12: (48:44)
Jen, can I [crosstalk 00:48:44] follow-up on Afghanistan?
Jen Psaki: (48:44)
Okay. Thanks, everyone. All right, have a great day. I’ll see you tomorrow or later this afternoon, whenever.