Feb 6, 2023

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle Aboard Air Force One En Route Philadelphia, PA 2/03/23 Transcript

Karine Jean-Pierre Holds a Press Briefing on Air Force One 4/11/23 Transcript
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Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle Aboard Air Force One En Route Philadelphia, PA 2/03/23. Read the transcript here.

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Karine Jean-Pierre (00:03):

As you know, we are route to the home of the future Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. As the first lady would say, “Go Birds.” This week, the President visited Baltimore, to make a historic investment in the rail along the northeast corridor, and traveled to New York City to announce funding to complete a critical early phase of the Hudson Tunnel project. Today, the President and the Vice President are traveling to Philadelphia, to announce hundreds of millions of dollars in bipartisan infrastructure law funding to upgrade Philadelphia’s water system and replace lead service lines.

Today’s visit continues the administration’s focus on implementing its economic agenda to deliver real results for the American people, its aggressive work to replace all lead service lines in America in the next decade. Everyone deserves safe drinking water in America. Your zip code shouldn’t determine whether your kids are at risk of lead poisoning every time they access a basic necessity.

The President and the Vice President will be joined in Philadelphia by EPA administrator, Michael Regan, Governor Josh Shapiro, Senator John Fetterman, Senator Bob Casey, Congressman Dwight Evans, and Mayor Jim Kenney. I think I’m just going to go to questions. I do have a week ahead, but we could always send that out, unless you want that right now.

Speaker 2 (01:19):

We’ll do questions. Karine, a couple of balloon-related questions.

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:22):


Speaker 2 (01:23):

When did the White House learn about the balloon, and why was there a delay in disclosing that the balloon was out there? Secondly, did the President make the decision to cancel the Secretary of State’s trip? What does this episode say about US/China relations at this time?

Karine Jean-Pierre (01:37):

That’s a lot of questions right there. The President was briefed on this on Tuesday. He has continued to receive regular briefings and updates from the National Security team. I just want to reiterate what the Pentagon said earlier today, my counterpart, we’ve detected and are tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now, as you all know. It does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. President Biden was briefed, as I just stated, and he asked the military to present options. It was the strong recommendation by Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley, the commander of Northern Command, not to take kinetic action because of the risk to safety and security of the people on the ground. President Biden took that recommendation from the military seriously, of his advisors, clearly. The President will always put the safety and the security of the American people first.

As my colleague said over at the Department of Defense earlier today, we are tracking closely and keeping all options on the table. I can say, as it relates to Blinken’s trip, the President agrees with the secretary’s decision to not go on this trip. It was a consensus that it was not appropriate to travel to the People’s Republic of China at this time. We know the PRC statement of regret, but the presence of this balloon in our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law, and it is unacceptable this occurred.

To your question about the relationship moving forward, look, the President is always going to put the safety of Americans and the security of the American people first. Under this President, we are more prepared to out-compete China, protect our national security, and advance a free and open Indo-Pacific than ever before. Many of the efforts we have been pursuing are bipartisan, underscoring the alignment at home on this key issue. That’s how we’re going to continue to proceed. I think I got everything.

Speaker 3 (03:47):

Can I ask a follow-up? Will the United States attempt to capture this balloon while it is in U.S. airspace?

Karine Jean-Pierre (03:55):

My gosh. As you heard for my colleague, they are clearly keeping an eye on the balloon, and are going to continue to monitor it. We’re not going to give any more specifics than that, but it is something that the Pentagon is keeping a close eye on. I’m just not going to get ahead of the flight path, or the pattern, or anything like that.

Speaker 3 (04:16):

Has the President ruled out shooting it down, if he’s already taken that recommendation? Is that still something he’s considering?

Karine Jean-Pierre (04:23):

We’re going to continue to monitor. I’m going to clearly leave it to the Department of the Defense to figure out the next steps, as they monitor this. I just don’t have anything else to share.

Speaker 4 (04:32):

When you said that it’s not appropriate for him to go right now, what does the President think would be the appropriate conditions under which the Secretary of State’s travel could go ahead? DOD and you have just clearly stated it’s a surveillance balloon, and the Chinese are trying to sell it as a weather intel gathering balloon. You seem to not be buying their propaganda here.

Karine Jean-Pierre (05:02):

Again, we’ve acknowledged their statement of regret.

Speaker 4 (05:06):

They’re saying they’re not gathering intel the way you have laid it out.

Karine Jean-Pierre (05:11):

I hear you. I’m going to refer you to the Department of Defense as it relates to intel. I will reiterate what my colleague has said, which is, we acted immediately to take all necessary steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information. We are tracking closely, and keeping all options on the table. As the Pentagon have said, this is a high-altitude surveillance balloon. It is well above commercial airspace. Again, as my colleague has said at the Pentagon, it will is well above 60,000 feet. It does not pose a military or physical threat. Again, I don’t have anything more to share on that. I would refer you to my colleague.

Speaker 5 (05:56):

Karine, if this was already found out by Tuesday, why did it take so long for the decision to cancel Secretary Blinken? If you can just clarify when that decision was made. Are there any plans for President Biden to call President Xi over this?

Karine Jean-Pierre (06:11):

As it relates to a conversation with President Xi, I could tell you this: our National Security team has communicated directly with the Chinese government about this at several levels. I just don’t have any calls to preview for you as it relates to Secretary Blinken’s trip, I leave it to the State Department to explain that further. Again, as I said, the President agrees with the Secretary postponing this trip. It is very bumpy, and we are being asked to sit. Thank you everybody, I’ll see you on the ground.

Speaker 5 (06:41):

Thank you.

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