Sep 9, 2021

Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript September 9

Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript September 9
RevBlogTranscriptsJen Psaki White House Press Briefing TranscriptsPress Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript September 9

September 9, 2021 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She discussed COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the situation in Afghanistan, and more. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.

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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
… Long Beach, California to participate in an event with Governor Gavin Newsom. Starting on Monday, I should say. This is over two days. And Denver, Colorado will go participate in a Build Back Better event. The president will highlight how wildfire season is now a year-round event because of climate change, that no one is immune to climate change, and how one in three Americans have been impacted by severe weather events in recent months, about 100 million Americans. He will also speak about the economic impacts of extreme weather and the urgent need for key investments to fight climate change and in resilient infrastructure, critical investments included in his Build Back Better agenda.

Jen Psaki: (00:35)
In Colorado, the president will speak directly to the importance of the Build Back Better agenda, and the impacts that would be felt throughout local communities in Colorado and across the country. The Build Back Better agenda will lead to more economic and job growth, more Americans participating in the labor force, and will level the playing field for working families. Also, wanted to highlight this afternoon, the vice president will meet in her ceremonial office with abortion and reproductive health providers and patients to discuss the impact of Texas Senate Bill Eight and other restrictions on reproductive care. The vice president will emphasize that this issue is a critical priority for the administration and she will thank the providers and activists who are fighting to protect reproductive choice in their states.

Jen Psaki: (01:15)
Also, wanted to note one more scheduling item for all of you. Tomorrow, the president, the first lady, and the secretary of education will visit a local school in Washington, DC. The president and first lady will deliver remarks about how the administration is helping to keep students safe in classrooms and highlight some of the announcements the President is making later today on COVID.

Jen Psaki: (01:35)
I do have one last item. Today, HHS Secretary Becerra released a comprehensive plan to lower prescription drug prices for millions of Americans. Right now, Americans pay too much for prescription drugs, more than $1,500 per person, and far more than people in comparable nations. Lack of competition is a key factor. That’s why President Biden’s executive order on promoting competition requested that HHS develop a plan to address these high drug costs. This report is guided by the administration’s principles for equitable drug pricing reform through improved competition, price negotiation, and innovation.

Jen Psaki: (02:11)
Our healthcare experts make the case that the number one thing we can do to help Americans pay less for critical medications is to pass legislation. That includes allowing Medicare to negotiate prices and acting Medicare part D reform and speeding the entry of generic drugs that will compete with expensive brand named drugs. Secretary Becerra will present the report at the inaugural meeting of the White House Competition Council tomorrow. I know we’ve also sent a slew of statements into your inboxes, which all of you should have seen. One was from Emily Horn on the arrival of Qatar Airways charter, a second one was on David Chipman. I just wanted to highlight those in case you haven’t seen them yet, and we had a UI1 this morning. But Zeke, go ahead.

Zeke: (02:53)
Thanks, Jen. On that [inaudible 00:02:57], how many Americans were on that flight and how many [inaudible 00:03:00]? And then what’s the updated asses of how many Americans are still in Afghanistan?

Jen Psaki: (03:05)
Well, as we noted in the statement, the plane just landed. And what we want to do is check all of the manifests on the ground and ensure we have the accurate number for all of you. We’ll have that number out from the State Department shortly this afternoon.

Zeke: (03:16)
And then her statement says that the Taliban was cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residence. Doesn’t say that about SIV applicants and others who assist the United States. Should we read into it that the Taliban has not been cooperative-

Jen Psaki: (03:31)
And Afghans who worked for us. So that would be applicable.

Zeke: (03:36)
So they’ve been cooperative in getting Afghans who worked for the United States out of the country. They’ve been cooperative?

Jen Psaki: (03:41)
That’s what the statement conveys. Yes.

Zeke: (03:44)
And then on a different topic, the president speaks this afternoon, is the president’s going to sign an executive order on mandating vaccination for the federal workforce?

Jen Psaki: (03:54)
I would have to check on that, Zeke. That is the one piece of news that has been fully confirmed out there, which I can give a little bit more detail on and I can check whether he had signed it this morning or whether he was planning to sign after the speech.

Zeke: (04:09)
Are there any sections for people who have religious objections or medical reasons not to get to the vaccine?

Jen Psaki: (04:11)
Yes, there will be limited exceptions for legally recognized reasons such as disability or religious objections. I know you have all seen the reporting on this, but let me just give you a few top lines of it. So how this will work is the task force, the inter-agency task force will provide a ramp up period, and we expect federal employees will have about 75 days to be fully vaccinated. That gives people more than enough time in our view to start and complete their vaccination series. If a federal worker fails to comply, they will go through the standard HR process, which includes counseling and face a disciplinary action, face progressive disciplinary action. Each agency is going to work with employees to make sure they understand the benefits of vaccination and how the vaccines are free, easy, and widely accessible, but it will start to be applied once the executive order is signed.

Zeke: (05:00)
And any other previous view of what the president has going on this afternoon?

Jen Psaki: (05:05)
Well, you’ll have a preview call in just about 30 minutes, but let me just give you kind of some top lines here. I know we put out to all of you kind of the six prongs of what he will be announcing this afternoon. The overarching objective here is for the president to lay out the next steps to build on the steps we’ve taken since he took office and a number of steps we announced over the summer, and the federal mandate for workers is an example of that. We obviously had done that with a series of agencies, the VA, DOD, NIH. We had announced steps on attestation. This is the next step in that process.

Jen Psaki: (05:38)
But our overarching objective here is to reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans. There are, of course, 80 million unvaccinated Americans at this point in time. We want to reduce that number, decrease hospitalizations and deaths and allow our children to go to school safely. And of course, keep our economy strong. So what you’ll hear him lay out is a series of additional requirements. Some of them have been out there. Additional ways he’s going to expand access to testing, which is a key way that we can ensure we reduce the spread of COVID. And ways that we’re going to work with states and communities to implement these proposals. Go ahead.

Patsy: (06:13)
Thanks, Jen. The original mandate for federal workers that included an option for testing, regular testing just went into effect a little over a month ago. So why are you making this change so soon after that? What changed between then and now?

Jen Psaki: (06:29)
We’ve seen over the past couple of months, not only the threat of Delta, but the importance of taking additional bold and ambitious steps to get more people vaccinated. And obviously, the federal workforce is one of the largest in the country and we would like to be a model to what we think other businesses and organizations should do around the country.

Patsy: (06:49)
So was it an increase… I’m just trying to understand, because this-

Jen Psaki: (06:53)
When we announced our steps a couple of months ago, we said at the time that this would be the first of a series of steps. So this is the next in that series of steps.

Patsy: (07:02)
And do you have any numbers to illustrate how many federal workers have not been vaccinated yet? Or how many have?

Jen Psaki: (07:09)
Well, that’s been the attestation process. That’s been happening agency to agency. They really keep track of those numbers. Obviously, our objective is to get to close to 100%. There will be exemptions as Zeke, of course asked about. And as we have numbers to provide, we’ll provide them to all of you.

Patsy: (07:25)
Just one more. Is there any reason why you’re not requiring proof of vaccination and just allowing attestation, someone to verbally say for example that they got vaccinated?

Jen Psaki: (07:36)
Well, each agency will do it differently. Some agencies will have standards, do have standards, already of proof of vaccination, but different agencies will do it differently. Go ahead.

Speaker 1: (07:47)
Thanks, Jen. The President said in July, we were closer than ever to declaring independence from COVID-19. We heard from Dr. Fauci. He said the US doesn’t have modestly good control over the virus. Was the President over- confident in July?

Jen Psaki: (08:01)
Well, I think what we’ve said from the beginning here, and you all have covered, is that this is an evolving virus, a smart virus that has produced additional variants, variants that have been incredibly… That can spread very quickly like the Delta variant, but there are other variants, of course. When we announced the mask mandate, for example, in May, only 1% of cases were the Delta variant. So obviously information, data evolves, and the steps we need to take to address to get the virus under control, to help people return to normal has to evolve as well.

Speaker 1: (08:36)
But did that give Americans a full sense. I mean, the title of the speech was celebrating Independence Day and independence from COVID-19. The President said we gained the upper hand against the virus in July. Was that premature?

Jen Psaki: (08:48)
Well, the reason we’re here is because people have not gotten vaccinated, 80 million of them. Not because of any other reason, not because of a speech, not because of CDC guidance, not because of any other reason. And so what our objective is from the federal government is-

Jen Psaki: (09:03)
… any other reason. And so what our objective is from the federal government is to continue to take bold and ambitious steps to get more people vaccinated and protect more people. That’s what our focus is on. Go ahead.

Speaker 2: (09:10)
Do you have a better sense, Jen, of that workforce that includes about four million people? Are we correct in thinking it’s not the congressional branch or the judicial branch of government? It’s just the federal-

Jen Psaki: (09:25)
For the requirements? Yes. It’s the federal branch of government. Yes.

Speaker 2: (09:30)
Okay. And that workforce is about four billion people?

Jen Psaki: (09:32)
I believe that’s correct. I can double-check the numbers for you.

Speaker 2: (09:34)
Do you have any sense of just a ballpark of how many of those people remain unvaccinated? What are we talking about here?

Jen Psaki: (09:40)
It’s an understandable question, but what we’ve been doing and been implementing over the past several weeks is this attestation process which is still underway. So we’re still implementing that and we’ll have a better sense once we begin to implement the vaccination requirements.

Speaker 2: (09:55)
Where’s the frustrating level from the president that he’s giving yet another speech verging Americans to get vaccinated? He has said there are limitations in what his speeches can do. Why is there any hope that this will change anything at all?

Jen Psaki: (10:09)
Well, the speech isn’t just words, he’s announcing. And I would argue that the bully pulpit for any president can be quite powerful. But what the president is announcing is a series of bold and ambitious steps to address COVID, to save more lives, to protect more people. And that’s what the American people can expect to hear from him today. What he will also acknowledge and I don’t know if you were touching on this or attempting to touch on this is the frustration that tens of millions of Americans are feeling across the country.

Jen Psaki: (10:37)
We’ve heard governors, we’ve heard leaders voice that. We’ve heard many Americans in the streets that you all have interviewed voice that expression of frustration. People who are vaccinated who are frustrated that they can’t go back to normal, that they’re fearful about sending their kids to school when there aren’t necessary requirements. And the president’s speech today is going to hopefully take steps forward to help ease those fears and address that in return. Go ahead.

Zeke: (11:03)
Jen, for the people who don’t choose to be vaccinated and don’t fall into one of those limited exceptions, what are the consequences? Is it be vaccinated or be let go?

Jen Psaki: (11:13)
Well, again, there are limited exceptions. But yeah, the expectation is that if you want to work in the federal government or be a contractor, you need to be vaccinated unless you are eligible for one of the exemptions.

Zeke: (11:25)
Can you tell us about Mr. Chipman? Will be getting a different position at the administration and does President Biden have someone else in mind for that position?

Jen Psaki: (11:36)
Absolutely. Well, I know the statement went out, but let me reiterate some of the key pieces that were in the statement. Mr. Chipman spent, David Chipman. It feels very formal to call him mister, buy maybe I should. But he spent 25 years in distinguished service to our country as an ATF agent. He’s a gun owner himself and someone who had the backing of law enforcement groups. He would have been an exemplary director of the ATF and what have redoubled efforts to crack down on illegal firearms traffickers and help keep our communities safe from gun violence.

Jen Psaki: (12:06)
So to answer your question, Jeff. One, we always knew this would be challenging. There hasn’t been an ATF, a confirmed ATF director in six years and only one confirmed director in its entire history. We knew it would be challenging. Obviously, he has exemplary credentials. He’s someone the president has a great deal of respect for and we’re in active discussions with him about what role might be of interest to him in the federal government.

Zeke: (12:27)
And just lastly, Jen. Can you walk us through quickly what President Biden is doing on September 11th?

Jen Psaki: (12:33)
Sure. I know we’ve done an announcement or put out an advisory on that, but let me give you some highlights. He’ll be traveling to New York where he will be attending an event there commemorating 9/11, the lives that were lost, the heroes who saved lives as well. There will be a number of other former presidents in attendance. I know they have announced the details of that as well. Then he will be traveling to Pennsylvania where he will be laying a wreath to remember and commemorate the families who lost loved ones on the flight on that day on Flight 93.

Jen Psaki: (13:10)
And then he will be traveling to the defense department where he will also lay a wreath to commemorate lives lost that day. The president felt it was important to especially in the 20th anniversary to remember to visit all three places that have significant meaning to many Americans, especially in those communities and to the family members of people who lost their lives, families who are still mourning loved ones. Go ahead.

Speaker 3: (13:36)
Thank you, Jen. First on COVID origins. You’ve said from that podium that under no circumstance would president Biden ever fired Dr. Fauci. Is that still the case since Fauci told Congress the NIH never funded gain-of-function research for coronaviruses in Wuhan, but documents published by The Intercept suggests that is not true which would mean that he misled Congress.

Jen Psaki: (13:58)
Well, first I would say that NIH has refuted that reporting and I would point you to that, but let me give you some highlights of that. NIH has never approved any research that would make a coronavirus more dangerous to humans. We’re reminded that there are previous and different coronaviruses than the existing one we’re battling. And the Body of Science produced by this research demonstrates that the bat coronavirus sequences published from that work NIH supported were not COVID, the strain, COVID-2 strain. So what he said was correct.

Speaker 3: (14:30)
So his job is safe?

Jen Psaki: (14:31)

Speaker 3: (14:32)
Okay, moving on. Can you explain a little bit more about why the White House in a statement is calling the Taliban businesslike and professional?

Jen Psaki: (14:42)
Well, I would note that in that statement, what we were announcing was the fact that a Qatari airlines flight successfully landed in Qatar with American citizens, legal, permanent residents and Afghans onboard who joined us in our fight over the last several years. We wanted to note that the Taliban was cooperative in facilitating the portrait of these American citizens and legal, permanent residents from HKIA.

Jen Psaki: (15:09)
We promised we would get American citizens out. We promise we would get legal, permanent residence out. We promised we would get our Afghan partners out and we promised we would press the Taliban to get them out and that’s exactly what we did.

Speaker 3: (15:20)
But you’re saying the Taliban is businesslike and professional. Their interior minister has an FBI wanted poster. He’s got a $10 million bounty on his head. What’s the business?

Jen Psaki: (15:31)
We are here to celebrate the return of American citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan of legal, permanent residents of Afghans who fought by our side to Qatar successfully on a Qatari airlines flight. And in order to get those people out, we had to work with some members of the Taliban to press them and to work in a businesslike manner to get them out. That is what we were stating in the statement.

Speaker 3: (15:56)
And in that statement it says, “This is a positive first step.” Towards what?

Jen Psaki: (16:00)
Towards getting additional people out who want to leave Afghanistan. Go ahead.

Speaker 4: (16:04)
Jen, does the vaccine mandate include every business that gets a government contract?

Jen Psaki: (16:09)
There are going to be additional details that will be briefed to you in about 20 minutes. And I will encourage you to wait for all of those specifics.

Speaker 4: (16:18)
So for clarity, at least information that has been confirmed by people who work in said building has been that the federal government for nearly all. Obviously, it doesn’t include the judiciary and federal branch or the congressional employees. And they said and contractors as well. You can’t say whether that’s contractors?

Jen Psaki: (16:31)
Yes, that is true. Contractors, yes.

Speaker 4: (16:33)
Contractors. But obviously there are a lot of companies that have contracts with the government where some of those people in the firm work with the US government, others do not.

Jen Psaki: (16:40)
There’s more to come on private sector requirements that will apply to many of these companies you are referring to.

Speaker 4: (16:47)
Fine. We’ll wait for that clarity coming up shortly after this. Just to clear up one thing that was asked by Jeff earlier. Disciplinary action could include termination, correct?

Jen Psaki: (16:57)

Speaker 4: (16:57)

Jen Psaki: (16:57)
Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Our role is of course to convey to federal employees the safety, the effectiveness, the availability of vaccines, which are readily available across the country.

Speaker 4: (17:08)
And is fully vaccinated for those employees and contractors two shots or three shots?

Jen Psaki: (17:13)
Well, at this point I think we’re working towards two shots. I’ll check on that for you. Obviously, the boosters are not yet available. So in terms of the implementation, we’re working at this stage right now.

Speaker 4: (17:22)
As the White House know as well, the president’s poll numbers have dropped according to polls from a variety of different outlets right now. Do you acknowledge that the public now has some doubts about the president’s handling of the virus and is today’s announcement in some ways an effort to try to write that?

Jen Psaki: (17:38)
This is not a political speech and it’s certainly not about poll numbers. What we can acknowledge and you’ve seen in a lot of these polls is that the number one issue, number two issue, number three issue for many Americans is COVID and what we’re doing. And we have done a lot of work over the last couple of months even as we’ve had conversations and talked about a range of other issues, whether it’s Afghanistan or Build Back Better or other issues in this room and in many forms of media we engage with. So it’s an acknowledgement of that-

Jen Psaki: (18:03)
… and many forms of media we engage with. So it’s an acknowledgement of that. I’ll also note that in all of these polls, support for the president’s handling of coronavirus continues to be the majority of the American public. And that hasn’t changed. Go ahead.

Zeke: (18:13)
The American Federation of Government Employees. It says it encourages its members to get vaccinated, but suggested there should be a mandatory subject of bargaining with the federal government. Why did the White House decide to move forward without consulting with that large public employee?

Jen Psaki: (18:27)
Well, we have a range of consultations with labor unions, including that one. And that has been the case for several weeks and months as we’ve worked to implement additional steps. But look, our objective here is to continue to save lives, continue to protect more people from coronavirus, and continue to stop the spread of coronavirus across the country. We understand there will be objections. There will be concerns. There will be criticisms, but our role here is to save lives and we welcome feedback and engagement, but we’re going to stay true to our goal.

Zeke: (18:58)
Can I ask you about the exemption on religious exemptions?

Jen Psaki: (19:01)

Zeke: (19:02)
Will there be any kind of scrutiny applied? To what extent will a religious objection be questioned if at all by the federal government?

Jen Psaki: (19:10)
I’m sure there’ll be requirements as to how somebody would convey what their requests for an exemption would be. And I’m sure we can get you some more specifics on that. Go ahead.

Speaker 5: (19:18)
Jen, can we get any details on the lawsuit the administration is planning to file against Texas over the abortion law there? When is that coming? What grounds are you suing?

Jen Psaki: (19:29)
I understand the interest. I know it’s been reported on overnight. And I would note that just a couple of days ago, the president asked the Justice Department, asked the Department of Health and Human Services to urgently take any steps to look into what steps they have the authority to take to protect women’s access to healthcare. So we’ll let the Department of Justice announce any steps that they might take. Hopefully, we’ll hear more from them soon on that. But beyond that, the reports are entirely consistent with what the president has been calling for.

Speaker 5: (19:59)
One other topic. Are you concerned at all about Rahm Emanuel’s nomination to serve as ambassador to Japan, given the recent statements from progressives and activists? And what do you say to the criticism that his handling of the police killing of Mohamed MacDonald is disqualifying?

Jen Psaki: (20:14)
Well, the reason the president nominated Rahm Emanuel to serve as ambassador to Japan is that he has a record of extensive experience as a public servant, as somebody who was elected in Congress. And he thinks he would be somebody who would represent the US interests in Japan. So that’s the reason he nominated him.

Speaker 5: (20:34)
Any comment on the-

Jen Psaki: (20:35)
I don’t have any further comment related to the nomination. Go ahead.

Patsy: (20:39)
A couple of questions on the vaccine, they wanted to clarify first the agency by agency how essentially vaccine mandates will be determined. So some could have a proof of vaccination card. Some may have a verbal attestation. It’s determined by agency.

Jen Psaki: (20:51)

Patsy: (20:51)
Okay. The other thing I wanted to ask you about is a couple months back, July 23rd, I’d asked you if there was a mandate for folks working here in the White House, and at that time you had said no. Can you clarify for us what has changed in the White House’s thinking about mandates?

Jen Psaki: (21:07)
Well, we’ve always said that this would be a progression. That we would take steps and we would build upon them. So at the time, there were steps we announced about attestation and individuals needing to attest that they’d been vaccinated or be tested. This is building upon that. Now, there’s a requirement-

Patsy: (21:25)
The question was no vaccine mandate here at the White House.

Jen Psaki: (21:27)
Correct, I think I’m answering your question.

Patsy: (21:28)
So [inaudible 00:21:29] there was no attestation because there was no mandate at the White House.

Jen Psaki: (21:32)
Well, in the last few weeks we have announced, I don’t remember the exact date, a requirement of attestation, which is that individuals would have to attest either they’re vaccinated or be tested. So this is the next step building on that process.

Patsy: (21:46)
One more question. Does the White House support the idea of states, governors, individual states requiring COVID vaccines in schools, obviously for older children, much the same way that they’re require polio, MMR, a whole list of other vaccines?

Jen Psaki: (22:02)
It’s always going to be up to a local school districts and states and localities to make those determinations. But we certainly do think that mandates and places and communities where they have put mandates in place is a positive step forward. Go ahead.

Speaker 6: (22:17)
Yeah, I just wanted to follow up on the earlier question about the American Federation of Government Employees. They also said in their statement that they want to be able to bargain over that mandate and want to be able to do that before this requirement would be implemented. Do you expect that there will be lags with hundreds of thousands of federal workers who might extend beyond the 75 day deadline while they take up bargaining? This issue is like a bargaining issue.

Jen Psaki: (22:43)
I don’t have any anticipation of that, or I can’t anticipate what that looks like. That would be obviously up to them on what steps they may want to take. But the president has every intention of signing this executive order, us getting the clock running on the timeline for these requirements. And his view and our view is this will serve as a model to the rest of the country on the need to get more people vaccinated in order to save more lives.

Speaker 6: (23:07)
And does the administration have any plans this month for the president to announce a nominee for fed chair? And if not, are you worried about getting someone confirmed by February?

Jen Psaki: (23:17)
I don’t have any timeline to predict for you on what that looks like. Go ahead.

Speaker 6: (23:20)
Following up on a previous question about David Shipman. Does the White House plan to nominate a new ATF director? And what’s the timeline you think on that?

Jen Psaki: (23:28)
We certainly would at an appropriate time. I don’t have a timeline on that at this point in time, obviously we’re just announcing today the next steps on David Shipman.

Speaker 6: (23:37)
One other question. You said Biden, the president will be going to Long Beach on Monday to campaign for Governor Newsome. There’s a lot going on right now. Obviously, he’s giving a big speech tonight about the COVID pandemic and new restrictions on that. Why does he think it’s important to go to California to campaign for the governor at this point?

Jen Psaki: (23:55)
Because the election is Tuesday.

Speaker 6: (23:57)
Well, why is it an important election? Why is it important for the president that Governor Newsome continue on?

Jen Psaki: (24:04)
Well, I would say that the president remains quite popular in California as he does in Virginia and other states where there are competitive elections this year. And certainly, we don’t go campaign in states where we aren’t wanted, but hopefully this will be helpful to the efforts of the governor. Go ahead.

Speaker 7: (24:22)
[inaudible 00:24:22] on the September 11th [inaudible 00:24:24] and so are there plans on the day of for President Biden to actually deliver remarks on the anniversary?

Jen Psaki: (24:30)
It’s a good question. The events are not set up that way, because he’s attending an event with several other former presidents, and of course, former prominent officials in the morning in New York. In order to get to all of the events, it just doesn’t work that way. You will hear from him in the form of a video in advance, or if that will be available that day, I should say. Go ahead.

Ted: (24:52)
Hi Jen, the administration has asked states and local governments to use federal funds to extend unemployment benefits, stave off evictions, even implement COVID testing in schools, yet little to no states have done so. So is this a question of accountability or is the administration doing enough to convince states who may necessarily not agree with your policies to work together?

Jen Psaki: (25:15)
That’s not true. I mean, you’re saying states have not implemented using code funds to make updates in schools?

Ted: (25:22)
I’m just saying the states have not taken advantage of the federal programs to extend benefits, stave off evictions. There’s still billions of dollars left available that states haven’t used.

Jen Psaki: (25:34)
You’re right. But just to be very careful here, we can’t combine all those things because that is not all accurate. We have said a number of times from here that it is imperative that states take advantage of the funding that is available to stave off evictions. Absolutely. And they have the funding needed to implement a version of a federal eviction program, even as the Supreme Court ruled as they have and even as there are not enough votes in Congress. That is absolutely true. And we have done and taken a number of steps in the federal government, reducing red tape, changing their requirements to make it easier for people who are trying to stay in their homes to provide documentation that requires a little bit less red tape.

Jen Psaki: (26:15)
We’ve been in touch with governors, with leaders, pressing them to get this money out to landlords and to tenants. We’ve seen some success in certain states and certain communities who have benefited from our reduction of the red tape and benefited from our engagement. And we’re going to continue to press forward on that in the days ahead. I would say that the money from the American Rescue Plan, as it relates to schools and testing, that has been used in school districts around the country. Benefits, Ted, have helped keep police and firefighters, state and local funding has been used in states across the country. Every state is different, but I would say that funding has been applied and we’ll continue to work to states to get it out.

Ted: (26:54)
Also, the Capitol fence. That’s going up again ahead of the planned rally for the jailed insurrectionists. Obviously, it’s only been down for two months that we hadn’t seen that fence up-

Ted: (27:03)
… obviously it’s only been down for two months that we hadn’t seen that fence up, it’s going back now. Is the White House prepared, and should Americans expect this fence to go up every time there’s a new First Amendment demonstration?

Jen Psaki: (27:12)
I would say first, that the leaders on Capitol Hill, they take steps to ensure that their members are safe. And obviously the events in January 6th, a terrible day in our democracy, are still fresh in their minds. So of course, they’re going to take those steps. They rely on their own safety and security guidance, and we certainly defer to them on that step. Go ahead.

Speaker 8: (27:32)
Hey Jen. To use your word, how bold is the president willing to be as far as the private sector is concerned in the vaccine mandate area? Even if they don’t have a federal contracts, can the Department of Labor or anybody else compel major employers, the large employers to force the vaccine mandates on their employees?

Jen Psaki: (27:55)
Yes. Stay tuned. More to come this afternoon. Go ahead.

Patsy: (27:59)
Hi Jen. The Qatari Envoy, Akatani said that there may be another flight coming out tomorrow from the Kabul airport. Can you confirm this?

Jen Psaki: (28:06)
Well, patsy one thing to note, and this was in the statement we put out through Emily, and I understand the interest in this is that we’re not, as a policy going to confirm flights in advance. We’re going to wait until these flights are safely on the ground. And then when they are, we’ll provide updates. So I can’t give a prediction to you, but I can promise you that as we have information that is safe to confirm where people are on the ground, we’ll confirm moving forward.

Patsy: (28:30)
One more on former President Ghani. He has again yesterday denied allegations of corruption of the hundreds of millions of dollars that US taxpayers money has given to the Afghan people. And he said that he welcomed an official audit or financial investigation under UN auspices. Does the administration have a position on what should be done in regards to President Ghani and allegations of [inaudible 00:28:53]?

Jen Psaki: (28:52)
We defer to the UN on that. I don’t have any further comment from here. Go ahead.

Speaker 9: (28:56)
Thank you, Jen. This morning, you noted that the current count is that there’s about 100 Americans in Afghanistan. My colleague, Susan Crabtree is hearing from sources with direct knowledge who say that it’s about 143 US citizens and then also permanent legal residents there at the airport. Did the number of that you were referring to this morning on Morning Joe, did that include a permanent legal residents? Does the administration have a count of how many might be there? And then I guess, how hopeful are you that a lot of these folks are clustered there at the airport can get out?

Jen Psaki: (29:32)
We do have counts and the State Department is the best source to give accurate information about all of these numbers, and of course we account for legal permanent residents as well. The reason I said and to give just a little bit more context to what I said, because I know that this feels confusing to people, not anyone in this room, but the number can range. One of the important pieces of context to understand is that even as we work to get American citizens, and we’ll get you the number later this afternoon when it’s confirmed out. There were individuals who didn’t show up today for a range of reasons. We know that will happen. We will continue to remain engaged with these individuals about when they may need to leave. And there are days where people aren’t ready to leave that may change next week. So it’s around 100. The State Department will have the most up-to-date numbers.

Speaker 9: (30:19)
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that about 200 folks have been cleared by the Taliban. Just to clarify, are you saying that the Taliban is cooperating and getting Americans and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan right now?

Jen Psaki: (30:31)
Well, I don’t know if it requires me saying that it was in the statement, but we just had a plane land in Katar, that is evidence that we are working to coordinate, to get American citizens, to get Afghan partners and to get legal permanent residents out. And we’re hopeful and working to ensure their additional flights to Patsy’s earlier question. Go ahead.

Speaker 3: (30:57)
All right, Jen, just a few questions about the Western trip. In addition to California, he’s going to Idaho, that’s a state that while the focus is wildfires, that’s a state that’s really grappling with the COVID pandemic, where hospitals are enacting crisis standards of cares. What is the president’s reaction to the situation in Idaho with COVID, and is he going to address that during the trip?

Jen Psaki: (31:21)
Well, I’m sure he’ll have a range of conversations with elected officials and others while he’s on the ground. And certainly COVID and the threat of COVID is impacting communities across the country, including in Idaho, no question about that. I announced he was going to speak to the wildfires because obviously that is an issue that is impacting communities across Idaho as well, and the threat of extreme weather is something that has impacted about 100 million Americans in the last couple of months. But his view. And you’ll hear him give a speech in just a couple of hours, is that there’s additional steps that we need to take together to get more people vaccinated. We know how to return to normal. We know how to keep people safe in schools. We know how to be able to go back to sporting events and do it safely, to go back to concerts and do it safely. And I’m sure he’ll welcome an opportunity to talk about his six point plan when he’s in Idaho next week. I think we have to wrap this up, but-

Speaker 3: (32:14)
[inaudible 00:32:14] California, just following up on the previous question you obviously mentioned the President’s popular in California, but he’s also dealing with quite a bit from COVID, from Afghanistan. Why is it a priority to make a stop for an election event with a political ally?

Jen Psaki: (32:29)
Well, certainly he supports Governor Newsom remaining governor, but also while he’s on this trip, as I noted, he’ll have an opportunity to take his first trip to the west coast, to talk about issues that are impacting people across the country, extreme weather, wildfires in the west, and also talk about COVID and talk about his Build Back Better agenda and how it’s going to help people across the country. So you have to do a range of things as president. All right. Thanks everyone.

Speaker 10: (32:58)
What happened to my body my choice when it comes to vaccinations in the Biden administration? And in 2020 President-Elect Biden and said he would not demand vaccine mandates.

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