May 26, 2021
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre White House Press Conference Transcript May 26
May 26, 2021 press conference with White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Karine Jean-Pierre: (02:20)
Okay, good to see everyone. Have a couple of things for you guys at the top. Yesterday, we made history. Kristen Clarke was confirmed as the first woman and first woman of color to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice and Chiquita Brooks LaSure became the first black person to be confirmed as administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Kristen’s career was launched in the office that she now leads. She personally prosecuted crimes based on hatred and bigotry, human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault. She has served at two of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations, where she worked on everything from voting rights to equal education and employment. At the Department of Justice, she will continue advancing civil rights progress, including on police reform. Chiquita is a lifelong public who has worked at OMB, on Capitol Hill, at HHS and at CMS, where she helped implement the Affordable Care Act. Chiquita brings a wealth of knowledge to CMS where she will work to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, bring down healthcare costs for American families and advance health equity in communities across the country. The president was proud to nominate Kristen and Chiquita for these position, thanks the Senate for their bi-partisan confirmation, and is honored to have them serve in these key leadership positions. As you all saw yesterday, we announced that next Tuesday, June 1st, the president will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and deliver remarks to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Black Wall Street massacre. While there, he will meet with surviving members of the community, now between the ages of 101 to 107 and tour the Greenwood Culture Center. We’ll have additional details as we get closer to Tuesday. As you all know, president Biden believes affordable, safe housing is the foundation upon which families build their lives.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (04:35)
And he knows that stable housing will remain out of reach for tens of millions of Americans, even after COVID-19 pandemic and economic crises come to an end. Across the country, there is 300,000 unit gap in annual housing supply. 11 million families pay more than half their income on rent. Three million families with children under six reside in homes with lead paint and thousands of working families are displaced every year as a result of extreme weather, fueled by climate change. These changes are even more severe in low income communities and communities of color, which have been segregated, excluded, and neglected for generations. Investing in housing is an essential part of President Biden’s strategy to grow strong, healthy communities in every zip code. So today, the administration is releasing two new fact sheets highlighting some of the key housing elements of the American Jobs Plan. The president’s plan proposes a bold $213 billion investment in America’s housing infrastructure through number of federal programs and proposals with bipartisan support.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (05:50)
This investment is paired with expansion of bi-partisan tax credits and incentives to lower barriers to affordable housing in more and higher opportunity places across the country. Together our estimates suggest this will enable the construction and modernization of more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live. Along the way, these investments will create and sustain hundreds of thousands of good paying union jobs and provide employment and economic opportunities for residents of assisted housing. As you may have seen by now, today the president asked the intelligence community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion and to a report back to him in 90 days. Back in early 2020, the president called for the CDC to get access to China to learn about the virus so we could fight it more effectively. Getting to the bottom of the origin of this pandemic will help us understand how to prepare for the next pandemic and the next one. As we have done throughout our COVID response, we have been committed to a whole of government effort to ensure we’re doing everything to both understand and end this pandemic and to prevent future pandemics. This is why the president is asking the US intelligence community in cooperation with other elements of our government to redouble efforts, to collect and analyze information that could bring the world closer to a definitive conclusion on the origin of the virus and deliver a report to him again in 90 days, it will be another whole of government effort as I mentioned, including work by our national labs and other agencies.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (07:42)
Importantly, we will continue pushing for a stronger, multi-lateral investigation into the origins of the virus in China. And we will continue to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation with the needed access to get to the bottom of a virus that’s taken more than three million lives across the globe and critically, to share information and lessons that will help us all prevent future pandemics. With that, Zi, will you take us away?
Hey, Karine. First on that last bit about the cost for China to cooperate with these international investigations. What are the consequences for China, if it continues its current posture, which has not been to allow for a free and independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (08:39)
Well, right now we’re just going to focus on the presence of announcement on the 90 day investigation. A more deeper investigation to really look at the core of how did we get here with this pandemic and where the origins clearly of COVID-19. And once we get to that conclusion, we’ll have more to share.
So, but in terms of cooperating with the WHO investigations, there’s nothing new from the White House in terms of encouraging China or penalties for China if it does not cooperate with investigations going forward?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (09:11)
I’m not going to prejudge or make any pre announcements at this time. We’re going to go with the 90 day investigation and see where it takes us from there.
On that 90 day investigation, is the White House committing to making the results of that investigation public?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (09:24)
Well, we’ll have more to share after the 90 days.
And then finally, just on this. The president’s statement noted that at least one member of the intelligence community does leaning in the direction of there being of the potential for a laboratory accident. Well, which member of the intelligence community-
Karine Jean-Pierre: (09:42)
I don’t have that information to share with you right now. I think the most important thing is that the president has made a decision to get to the core, to really figure out where the origin come from, to do this additional 90 day review, after asking his team to look into it in March. So he wants to take that next step.
Thank you. Has the president who briefed yet this morning on the shooting in San Jose, California, and any other details you can share with us who may have briefed him?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (10:21)
Just give me one second. So the White House is monitoring the situation and our hearts go out to the victims and their families. I know local officials have addressed this publicly and there is an ongoing investigation as we all know. We will continue to stay in close contact with them and offer any assistance as needed. We still don’t know all of the details, but what’s clear as the president has said, is that we are suffering from an epidemic of gun violence in this country, both in mass shootings and in the lives that are being taken in daily gun violence that doesn’t make national headlines. That’s why he has already taken an initial set of actions on gun violence that will save lives. And that’s why he’s calling on Congress to take action, including calling on the Senate to pass the three bills to strengthen background checks that have already cleared the house with bipartisan support and which have the overwhelming backing of the American people
And on the infrastructure, I know you’re awaiting sort of the Republican counterproposal here. Any update, any more details you may have received on Republicans next move here?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (11:37)
Look, as we all know, negotiations working in this really funny way. We make an offer, they make a counter and then we counter. So as you all know, we made our offer and our counter and we’re waiting to hear from Republicans, which we’re hearing will happen shortly, what their counter will be. This is a process. We understand that this is a town that hasn’t seen a whole lot of bipartisanship over the last few years, the last four years to be exact. But this president is committed to trying to end that, which is why you have seen us continue to negotiate in good faith. The president’s red line, line in the sand has been very, very clear the way that he does not want to see. He does not want this to go is without any action at all. So inaction is that red line and he wants to make sure that we don’t tax people who make less than $400,000 a year. So we look forward to seeing what they come back with.
One more on this. Senator Chris Coons, obviously close ally of the president, someone who generally has a pretty good read on things over here. He has said that he thinks the Senate could pass a trillion dollar proposal focused more on traditional infrastructure, splitting off some of the other items that the president has called for and doing that just with Democratic support. Is the trillion dollars something the president can support, and would he back splitting things up like this?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (12:58)
Well, look, Mary, we’re still going through this negotiation process. We have to see what the Republicans, the senators on the Hill are going to come back with. And once we have their counter offer we’ll know more and what steps to take next.
Okay. Just lastly, a bit of a personal question. Your presence here today is making history. You were the first black woman to stand behind that podium, speaking on behalf of the president in 30 years. I’m just wondering if you could share your reflections with us.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (13:24)
Well, thank you for the question. It’s a real honor to just be standing here today. I appreciate the historic nature, I really do. But I believe that, you know, being high, being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building is not about one person, it’s about what we do on behalf of the American people. Clearly the president believes representation matters, and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity. And it’s another reason why I think we are all so proud that this is the-
Karine Jean-Pierre: (14:03)
And it’s another reason why I think we are all so proud that this is the most diverse administration in history. But again, this is not about me. This is not about any of us. And any time I’m behind here, and I think you’ve heard Jen say this as well, we are going to be truthful, we’re going to be transparent, and that’s the way I believe the President would want us to communicate to the American people. Thank you for the question.
Speaker 1: (14:26)
Thanks, Karine. Welcome. The White House publicly has mostly focused on the WHO investigation into the origins. What changed from that to the President’s statement today?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (14:37)
Well, you know, nothing has changed. If you think about it… As I mentioned in the readout, and I’m sure you saw in the statement… the President has asked his team to look into this back in March, so this is something that has been ongoing. We have been pretty vocal with WHO these past several months. And so, this is just a continuation of what the President has been focused on. We’re going to see what happens these next 90 days. As we just read out, it was inconclusive, so we need to get to the bottom of this. As we all know, we’ve lost almost 600,000 Americans to COVID-19, and we have to get a better sense of the origin of COVID-19, and also how do we prevent the next pandemic. And so, that is the focus of this announcement that we put out this morning, the President put out this morning.
Speaker 1: (15:32)
When it comes to the IC, their conclusions or where they land on things hasn’t actually changed that much in the last 12 years. Is the President concerned that the IC doesn’t have enough visibility, even if they’re redoubling their efforts into what… Is there a collection problem there?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (15:46)
Well, I think this is going to be the process, right? They have 90 days to kind of get a deeper look on this, and then we’ll have a better sense of where to take this next. I mean, I do want to go back for a second. You know, we’ve gotten this question about the origins, and we’ve been pretty vocal, right? This administration? We didn’t have access. China wasn’t transparent enough. We have been saying that for a very long time, that China needed to provide more access to the lab, cooperate more fully with the scientific investigators, and we don’t think that they have met that standard. So, we’ve been clear that sound and technically critical theory should be thoroughly evaluated, and data, before we can give a full pronouncement. So that’s the one part, right? That’s the WHO and China. And now the President has asked his team to do a 90 day review.
Speaker 1: (16:45)
And then just one more quick one on infrastructure. Republicans have talked about repurposing COVID money as a potential pay for here. Does the administration think that’s feasible? Is it something the President is willing to consider?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (16:57)
So Phil, as you know, we have not seen the counterproposal yet, and we’ll look forward to reviewing that. It seems like tomorrow that might happen. But the President has been clear that his line in the sand, as I just said, is raising taxes on Americans making more than $400,000 a year. But we should also be clear that there are simply not hundreds of billions of dollars in COVID relief funds available to be repurposed.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (17:23)
As of the end of March, about 95% of the $3 trillion in pre rescue plan COVID relief funding has either been obligated or is for PPP, unemployment insurance, or nutrition assistance, where the money is going out as planned to specific businesses and people. Of the remaining 5%, the largest categories of unobligated balances are in the healthcare provider relief fund, funding for rural hospitals and healthcare providers, and disaster loans for small businesses. So, turning to the American Rescue Plan, the legislation is working exactly as needed, delivering relief to family businesses and communities, to bridge our economy to end the pandemic and into a strong recovery, which is what we’re working towards.
Speaker 2: (18:13)
Thank you. First on the economy, and concerns about inflation. The J.P. Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, warned today that we are going to have more inflation, less productivity, and slower growth if future federal spending, administration spending, isn’t done productively. The federal government, not historically known for efficiency. So, can you guarantee there’s not going to be any waste in the possibly $4 trillion more of spending in the next couple months?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (18:42)
So, let me first step back for a second. When we think about the inflation and we think about where we are currently… Look. The President’s plan is working. We are growing the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, faster than any time in the last four years. We’re creating an average of 500,000 jobs a month, up from 60,000 a month before he took office, before this president took office. And if you look at unemployment insurance claims, they’re down, and Americans have much needed money in their pockets, thanks to the American Rescue Plan. So we’re going in the right trajectory, right? We’re looking at the trend, and the trend is going in the right way. And this is a president who understands about making sure that we’re not wasteful. Right? Making sure that he was the… When we think about when he was a Vice President, he overlooked that stimulus recovery package back then, and so he made sure there was no corruption and no waste. And so, he understands how this all works, and he has a team that will be on top of this as well.
Speaker 2: (19:43)
And I know that one of the big things for him is not to raise taxes on anybody that makes less than $400,000 a year, but if there is inflation because of wasteful spending or any other reason, and everything is more expensive for everybody, is there a concern that that could be a tax on the poor, effectively?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (20:02)
I just want to be really clear about the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan proposal. Look, both of those plans will create job opportunities for all Americans, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, invest in research and development, and educate our children, and combat climate change. So these plans that we’re talking about is actually an investment in our country, an investment in people, an investment in families, that we need, we have long needed, even before we saw what the pandemic has done to everyday Americans.
Speaker 2: (20:34)
And then just last one. On COVID-19 origins, if it turns out that COVID-19 originated from some sort of a lab accident in China, which the President now says one element of the intel community thinks is possible, would the President seek to punish China?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (20:51)
We’re not going to go there just yet. We have to go through the 90 day review, and once we have the 90 day review we’ll be able to reassess.
Speaker 2: (21:00)
But just to take a step back, anything that kills 591,116 Americans, is that something, if another nation either was responsible or knew more than they were letting on? Like you said, they weren’t letting the inspectors in, and that hurt the overall investigation forever. What would the President do? Would he do anything?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (21:23)
I mean, he’s doing something right now. He asked his team back in March, right, to do this. To look into this, look into the origins of the COVID-19. This is incredibly important. Like his statement says, we need to find out where the COVID-19 originated from. So the President has been very clear. He actually spoke out about this back in 2020, so this is not the first time we’ve heard his voice, his concern about the origins of COVID-19. So, we’re just taking the next step. I’m just not going to prejudge. I’m not going to make a statement until we know what happens after this 90 day review. Thanks [inaudible 00:22:05]. [crosstalk 00:22:05] Peter.
Speaker 3: (22:05)
Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:05)
Speaker 3: (22:08)
As for the opening statement, we received the statement on the origins of COVID-19 from the President, where he said among other things that, “This report may include specific questions for China.” Given China’s lack of transparency as it relates to the WHO joint study, why does President Biden think that China would answer the questions that the U.S. wants as it relates to the origin of COVID-19?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:28)
Well, the COVID- 19 pandemic has taken, I think it’s 1.3 million lives globally, 600,000 American lives, about, and it’s imperative that we get to the bottom of just where the pandemic originated, not just for the purposes of understanding this pandemic, but the pandemics to come, as I’ve already kind of alluded to. And so, this is something that we’re going to continue to have conversations on. This is a global effort. It’s not just United States alone, as we’re working with the WHO. This is our process here with the 90 day, that I just mentioned, review. But we’re just going to continue to work with WHO, and WHO is going to continue to work with China on this.
Speaker 3: (23:13)
So, I understand why we want it to get done, but why do we think that China would cooperate?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (23:17)
You know, this is something that you have to ask the Chinese government. Right? This is something that it should matter to them, but this is a question for them, as well.
Speaker 3: (23:26)
Has the President specifically asked or made this ask of President Xi of China, for their cooperation in this effort?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (23:33)
I’m not going to go into details of private conversation that the President may have, may have had with President Xi. All I can say today is that we’re going to do this 90 day review, and this is what the President asked for, and we’ll see where it takes us.
Speaker 3: (23:45)
If not the President, has the White House made this ask of the Chinese government, more broadly?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (23:49)
Again, I don’t have anything to preview for you of that to read out.
Speaker 3: (23:52)
Let me ask you about Belarus if I can very quickly.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (23:54)
Speaker 3: (23:54)
The President said yesterday, I think his specific language was that sanctions, it’s in place, said of sanctions. Has the White House, this administration made any final decisions about possible sanctions against Belarus?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (24:07)
The President, as we said yesterday as well, he asked his team to look into it and come up with kind of a menu of options on how to move forward. So we don’t have anything yet to read out on that.
Speaker 3: (24:21)
Last item. Just following up on the awful tragedy that we’re still learning more details about in San Jose, California right now. You said what the president is doing broadly in an effort, and what he’s been pushing Congress on. Are there any Republican lawmakers in particular that he’s reaching out to? What specifically is he doing in terms of that effort now, to try to push this along, given great frustration that it appears stalled? Any broad gun reforms?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (24:43)
As you know, as I laid out, the President made some historic proposal plans of his DOJ just about a month and a half ago. Which is kind of historic, when you think about what presidents have done in the past when it comes to dealing with gun violence prevention. You know, the President talks to many Republicans and Democrats on the Hill. As you know, he was a senator for 36 years, a Vice President for eight years. He has a lot of close relationships. They talk about an array of issues. And so, I don’t have any specific conversation to read out to you about this particular issue, but he continues to call on Congress to move on getting gun reform done.
Speaker 3: (25:29)
Karine Jean-Pierre: (25:29)
Speaker 4: (25:31)
Thank you. So, there was a letter from 15 states to your climate envoy, John Kerry, this week. In that letter they expressed issues with Kerry pushing banks to divest from fossil fuel companies, and they said that they would be pushing back on that. I mean, is that going to hurt your strategy? Do you have any comment about that letter, and the reaction to it?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (26:02)
I have not seen this letter. I don’t have a comment for you right now, but I’m happy to go back and talk to the team and get back to you on that specific letter.
Speaker 4: (26:12)
And just on a separate issue, the President spoke with Egypt’s President Sisi?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (26:19)
Speaker 4: (26:19)
On Monday, and in your readout of that call, you said that President Biden underscored the importance of a constructive dialogue on human rights in Egypt. Could you talk a little bit about exactly what dialogue Biden is having with Sisi about human rights in Egypt, and will it go beyond talk?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (26:36)
So, I have to tell I don’t have any more to read out from that specific conversation from the readout. I’m going to let the readout sit for itself, but I don’t have any more specifics on that particular human rights issue.
Speaker 4: (26:47)
[crosstalk 00:26:47] preview about how you plan to approach human rights. I mean, you have a budget coming out tomorrow that has foreign aid. You have a lot of leverage with governments like Egypt, as we saw with Suez, has we saw with Gaza. Is there scope for the White House to put pressure on [crosstalk 00:27:06]?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (27:06)
Well, as you can imagine, one of the things that the President really puts front and center is his relationships, his deep, long relationships with many of the leaders, clearly across the globe. He has had decades of experience in foreign policy, and so one of the things that he truly believe in as it comes to how we’re moving forward with foreign policy is diplomacy, and making sure that we’re having all those critical, important conversation. Those type of conversation is probably best, as you can imagine, to have it quietly, to have it behind the scenes, and just to continue to talk about our values and what’s important to this country, and how we see us moving forward, when we talk about especially something like humanitarian issues. Thank you.
Speaker 5: (27:56)
Karine, thank you. It’s great to see you here today.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (27:58)
Good to see you.
Speaker 5: (27:59)
I’m trying to get more clarity on the timing of the President’s statement today on the…
… more clarity on the timing of the president’s statement today on the COVID-19 origins. He said that he received the report earlier this month about the origins and asked for additional follow-up. Did that up include the current position of the IC, or in other words, when did the president first learn about the IC’s current position that they don’t have enough information to say if it was the animal posts that caused this or a lot of accidents?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (28:33)
Well, from just his readout, it said that he learned about it a month ago. So, don’t have more to read out than that. One of the reasons that we’re doing it now is because classified information takes time to declassify. And so that is a process that takes some time. And so now we are sharing that information with you all, but just it was a month ago that he got the readout from the IC.
Does it have anything to do with those reports that the three researchers in the Wuhan lab were hospitalized in November 2019?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:11)
No. I mean, this is something that the president has been working on for some time, right, as I mentioned in the readout, as we put out in the statement. And this is something that the president called out back in early 2020. So, this is an issue that has been at top of mind and that he wanted to dig into and make sure that we really get to the bottom of how we got here.
I guess I’m just trying to understand if there’s new evidence that emerged or a new posture from the IC, because medical experts, including Dr. Fauci have long said that it’s highly likely that the virus came from an animal to human transmission. So, what changed that led to today?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:52)
Well, the readout basically said it was inconclusive, right? That we needed more time to get to a better answer. So, this is why we’re doing a 90 day review to get a better sense of where do we take this next.
What does redoubling mean? What more can the intelligence community be doing that they’re not already?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (30:15)
Well, I think we’ve talked about making sure that we are getting the data, right, from China, right? Making sure that we’re getting more information, it’s hard to pre-judge these things, right? It’s hard to make pronouncements of something when you don’t have all the information that you need. So, this is going to take some time. This is going to continue to work with the WHO as well. These are not mutually exclusive. These are happening at the same time. So, it’s going to take more collaboration and more conversations as well.
Just one quick one on Belarus. Roman Protasevich’s mother has issued an urgent plea to world leaders to help free her son saying, “Please save him. They’re going to kill him in there.” Is there anything that President Biden can do to secure his release? And has he communicated yet with President Lukashenko?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (31:04)
Well, I don’t have a call to read out on your second question, but the president, as I mentioned, has asked his team for options. They are working through them now. He spoke a little bit about it yesterday, as I think Peter just mentioned. Look, the Europeans are leading on this. This was a flight that was between European capitals. There were Americans on this flight clearly as well. And we are very concerned. The president condemned it and there will be more to come.
Thanks so much.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (31:34)
No problem. Thanks Weijia.
Speaker 6: (31:36)
Speaker 7: (31:37)
Thanks, Karine. Congratulations again on being at the podium.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (31:39)
Speaker 7: (31:40)
Another question on COVID. The language that you all use specifically mentioned an accident, does that mean that you’ve ruled out or the IC has ruled out that it was deliberate or not an accident?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (31:53)
We haven’t ruled out anything yet. Again, we’re going to go through this redoubling down of a 90 day review and we’ll have more to share.
Speaker 7: (32:01)
And then, what makes the president confident that the IC community, the intelligence community rather, can come up with more, better evidence in the next 90 days, giving it’s been working on this for the better part of the past year?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:14)
Well, he asked him to, again, double down, as you just mentioned, and dig in and see if we can get more data, more information. There’s not much more I can say about what our intelligence community is doing. We’re going to let them do this 90 day review. And we’ll see where we are at the end of the days.
Speaker 7: (32:31)
Last couple. Just one more on China. The Chinese have indicated that they like to see some of the tariffs roll back before they engage in discussions with the US trade representative. Is that something that the administration is willing to make concessions to facilitate those talks?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:48)
I don’t have anything to share about the tariffs and trade in conversations that we’re currently having right now.
Speaker 7: (32:56)
And final question, domestically. The president, of course, met with the Floyd family yesterday. How does his meeting change the White House’s strategy toward getting police reform passed?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (33:03)
I’m so sorry. Can you say that last part? I didn’t hear it.
Speaker 7: (33:06)
The president met with the Floyd family yesterday.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (33:07)
Speaker 7: (33:07)
How does that meeting, if in any way, impact the president’s strategy toward getting the George Floyd Policing in Justice Act passed?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (33:15)
Yeah. So, as you mentioned, his meeting with the Floyd family yesterday, this is deeply personal to the president. Over the last year he’s gotten to know this remarkable family. This is a president that knows about loss personally, as we all know, and he has connected with them on a very personal level, not just as a president and a grieving family, but on a far more personal level. He has been particularly taken by Gianna, George’s younger daughter who was here as well. He met her before the funeral last year, I believe that was June 8th, and has kept her close to his heart ever since. And he has talked about her, famously saying that her father changed the world and the president has not only told her she is correct, but he is committed to doing everything in his power to make it so.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (34:11)
He told her this at the funeral last year and he reiterated his commitment to that after the verdict, and again yesterday when they met here at the White House. So, when it comes to police reform, this is a priority for this president. He said it in his speech, his joint speech in Congress, right? His joint Congress speech. And he’s going to continue to work on this today, tomorrow and every day. He is very pleased to see and heartened to see the bipartisanship negotiators on the Hill. This is Senators Scott and Booker, and also Congresswoman Bass. He wants to give them the space, right, to work on this. They have only been positive about the direction that the police reform bill is going, is headed to. And so, he wants to continue to work with them, but also give them the space to negotiate. And so this is, again, a top priority. He wants to see the George Floyd Act be signed into law.
Hey, Karine. Thank you. Welcome. I wanted to follow up a little bit on Phil’s question about what had changed on the China lab situation and some of the other questions as well. It seems to me, despite your response to Phil, that it’s clear that at least two things have changed, right? One is that Jen spent much of the last week in response to these questions focusing entirely on international investigations led by the WHO and dismissing the idea raised by a lot of us in the room about why not have the United States conduct its own the investigation. And she continually referred back to the WHO as the proper place for this. So, it seems like there has been a change. There also seems like there’s been a change in the president’s view of the possibility of a lab accident. I mean, the statement seems to elevate that possibility and give it more credence at least, not saying that it’s certain, but that it at least has the credence that deserves a kind of full investigation. And so I guess trying to get at the question some others have asked is like, what has changed in those two things? What was it that brought the president and this White House to a different place now than it’s been even just in the recent last days?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (36:33)
I mean, Michael, I would say to you this is something that was ongoing, right? This was this is something that has been going on since March. So, this is not a change. This is something, like I said, that’s been ongoing. What has changed is he wants to give another 90 days to dig a little deeper, IC to double down their efforts. And that is what he’s asking for. But, I said this earlier, the WHO doing their thing and the IC doing what they’re doing currently is not mutually exclusive, right? This is something that could happen at the same time. And so, at the end of the day, we are committed to throwing everything we have at this pandemic, both domestically and internationally. That’s why we’ve been so strong at ensuring that the WHO gets what it needs for a thorough independent investigation. And that’s why we’re also devoting US resources to learn more about it.
Okay. And just, I don’t want to beat the dead horse, and it’s not fair to ask you to answer for Jen, but then why was this White House so dismissive of the idea of a US-led investigation if the president was already interested in that kind of investigation before that? That seems to be-
Karine Jean-Pierre: (37:50)
I mean, Michael, I get your question. You’ve been doing this longer than many of us. As you know, we don’t speak about everything that’s being reviewed, especially as something like this that was actually classified and it takes time to declassify something so that we can share with all of you. So, that’s part of it is as well. We’re talking about classified information. We’re talking about something that the intelligence community was working on, that we don’t normally every time put out there. Thank you, Michael.
Speaker 8: (38:23)
Hi Karine. Congratulations.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (38:24)
Speaker 8: (38:25)
Thanks for being here.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (38:26)
Speaker 8: (38:26)
I have one last little question on this. How confident is the president that even without Chinese cooperation, that the US can get to the bottom of this in 90 days? And I have a question about something else.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (38:39)
We got to keep working on it. I mean, this is what he’s asking his intelligence community to do. We will review and reassess all of this in 90 days once we get that review back from the intelligence community.
Speaker 8: (38:53)
I have a question about Nord Stream. Yesterday the president basically said there wasn’t anything he could do, was already completed by the time he took office. He said if he went ahead and impose sanctions it would be counterproductive to European relations, but he’s been an opponent of that pipeline, but he did say, “I hope we can work on how they, the Europeans, handle it from this point on.” How does he want the Europeans to handle Nord Stream from this point on since he has decided that there’s really nothing he can do to stop it?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (39:20)
Well, just to step back for a second. Nord Stream was 95% done, right?
Speaker 8: (39:26)
Karine Jean-Pierre: (39:28)
So, before he even stepped in and I talked earlier about diplomacy, there’s sometimes you have to do things in a different way, right? We have these relationships that we are rebuilding as well, especially after the last couple of years. And so this is going to be a process. And so, like the president said, we’re going to figure out ways that we can work together. And that is something that is incredibly important to this president.
Speaker 8: (39:58)
But what does he want from this point on? As he said, “I hope we can work on how they handle it from this point on.” What is he talking about?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (40:06)
Yeah. I don’t have any specifics to share with you. As you could imagine a lot of these conversations happen behind closed doors, but I think he was trying to share his thoughts on this and how he really, truly wants to figure out a path forward.
Speaker 9: (40:24)
Thanks Karine. A follow-up on the Olympics question that came up in the briefing either yesterday or the day before. Today, a major Japanese newspaper put out an editorial calling for the cancellation of the Olympics saying that it is not rational to hold the games this summer. So, given Japan’s low vaccination rate, as well as the state department bluntly telling Americans, “Do not travel to Japan,” is there any second guessing on the part of the administration to move forward and concerned about athletes safety?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (40:55)
Well, first, let me just be very clear. The travel advisories is an advisory, it’s not a ban, but our position remains. It has not changed on the Olympics. We respected the decision to delay the games last summer, and we understand the careful consideration that the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee are weighing as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics that’s just coming up right around the corner. So, the government of Japan has stressed that the public health remains the central priority as they plan to host the games. Tokyo has assured us that they will keep in close contact with Washington as their plans develop. And the president proudly supports the US athletes who have trained for these games and will be competing in the best traditions, if you will, of the Olympic spirit. And so America’s Olympic athletes represent the very best of our determination, diversity and teamwork.
Speaker 9: (41:56)
And just one other thing. You just mentioned at the top of the briefing fact sheets about the economy and housing and things, the president is going to be in Cleveland tomorrow talking-
Speaker 10: (42:03)
… about the economy and housing and things. The President is going to be in Cleveland tomorrow talking about the economy. What’s the thrust of his remarks tomorrow?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (42:09)
So tomorrow during a speech on the economy in Cleveland, President Biden is going to make a clear case that his economic plan is working. He’ll talk about how far we’ve come as a country because of the actions we’ve taken over the last four months. Turning the tide on the pandemic. Creating 500,000 new jobs each month on average. Cutting unemployment claims by more than a third. Raising wages and leading the development world recovery.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (42:38)
And he’s going to talk about why now is the right moment to investing in Building Back Better for workers in places like Cleveland. By making historic generational investments and foundation of our economy strength through the jobs plan and the family’s plan. Investments that will create good paying union jobs, expand economic opportunities for all Americans, and help us out-compete the rest of the world in the 21st century. So that’s the trip for tomorrow. Sebastian?
Thanks very much, and yes, welcome. So I’m afraid, apologies, this is not the last quick question. Is the White House satisfied with the cooperation it’s getting from China on this? Because in the past, clearly it hasn’t been. And if it isn’t, is the President, has he got a message to China that I would like more cooperation? Are you asking China to step up in these 90 days? Or is it okay?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (43:31)
Well, we’ve been working, speaking closely with WHO. They’re they’re the global entity entity bringing us all together and so they’re having that direct conversation when it comes to the origins of COVID-19 and we have been pretty clear, China has not been transparent. They need to do more. And so that’s what we’ve been, I think, very vocal about this these past several months and we’ll continue to do so.
Thank you. And another question on the Olympics as well. Just to put the same question a slightly different way. A large majority of the Japanese, according to the polls, are against it, and it’s pretty consistent. You’ve got some prominent businesses against it. You’ve got a large part of the medical community against it and now you’ve got this newspaper, which is one of the sponsors of the Olympics, against it.
Is there a point at which the administration says, “Look, we just don’t want to basically offended Japanese people,” even if the government is saying it’s okay? Or are you just going to follow their government’s guidance and just go along with what they say?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (44:40)
I mean, it really goes back to what I was saying earlier is that we truly respect the decision to delay it last year and the government of Japan has stressed that public health remains a central priority. And so that is the commitment that they made to us and to other countries where they will have athletes attending the Olympics in just a few weeks. And so that’s pretty much where we are. We just really truly, we trust what the government of Japan has stated to us.
Speaker 11: (45:20)
Thanks and congratulations again.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (45:22)
Speaker 11: (45:23)
A question on the origins of the pandemic. The President says he has specific questions for China. I know that a lot of this is classified information, but can you share anything on what some of those specific questions are for China?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (45:35)
I can’t share the specific questions that are for… Because this is an intelligence community. They’re doing their deep dive. I can’t go into that.
Speaker 11: (45:45)
Okay. Turning to infrastructure, some Republicans are saying, including Senator Coon, are blaming White House aides for not getting a deal. Saying that in fact, White House staff is less interested in getting an infrastructure deal than the President himself. How concerned is the President about that and has the President reached out to those senators who are saying this and saying, “No, in fact, my staff and I are on the same page”?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (46:05)
Well, all of this, this negotiation, is being led by the President. If you think about the memo, the counter offer that he put out last Friday, that was approved and led by the President. He’s been in the room in these negotiations. Again, he has close personal relationships with a lot of these senators. This is, as we know, I’ve mentioned this before, he wasn’t sent in the Senate for 36 years. He was a President for eight years. He believes in having bipartisanship. He has as a VP and as Senator, he has reached across the aisle to get things done, to get big things done. And so this is how he sees this moment. This is an infrastructure. Infrastructure is a bipartisan issue. This is something that Democrats, Independents and Republicans truly care about.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (46:55)
We’re talking about investing in our country, investing in people, investing in roads, investing in bridges. This is something that will have a long lasting effect. Something that we haven’t done in a generation. So this is something that we believe, he believes, more importantly, that should have bipartisan support and that’s what he’s going for. And thus far, we are seeing negotiation happening. We’re waiting to hear the counter offer from senators on the other side, Republican senators. And so once we get that counter offer, we’ll have more to share.
Speaker 11: (47:33)
[inaudible 00:47:33] about COVID and equity. I know there are, of course, COVID briefings, but the share of Black people who are making up the new coronavirus cases in cities like DC has risen sharply, and this is after the vaccines were widely available. In DC now, 80% of the new COVID cases are Black people. How concerned is the President about that? And does he see that as a failure, his responsibility specifically when it comes to the number of Black people in DC who now get COVID?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (47:58)
So it’s a great question, [Yumish 00:48:00]. Earlier this week, Jen talked about the war time kind of response that we’ve had to COVID-19 and the successes, we’ve actually seen some great successes on getting people vaccinated. But we still have a lot of work to do, right? The President made a pledge to have 70% of Americans by July 4th, have at least one dose in arms. 116 million Americans fully vaccinated. And so that means that we have to bring everyone along and as you just iterated, the President puts equity in everything that we do. We have a equity tax force. There’s a reason why we have that because we want to make sure we don’t leave communities behind.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (48:41)
And so one of the things that we’re doing and we’re continuing to do is we’re going to meet people where they are. That’s why now in many pharmacists you can walk in and get that vaccine. It is free. It’s something that clearly we’re working really closely with states and local governments with on. We have mobile units in communities do not have close access to CVS, or maybe don’t even have a doctor to go to.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (49:09)
So we have made it so that we’re meeting people where we are and one thing that we have learned, the more people who get vaccinated, the more of the confidence of the vaccine, you see that number going up. So we do have a lot of work to do, but we also have some successes that we can point to, that we can continue to replicate and continue to get out there and make sure we bring all communities along.
Speaker 11: (49:33)
If I could, with a quick followup.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (49:35)
Speaker 11: (49:35)
You said that the President, and it’s true, of course, the President’s put equity at the center of a lot of what he’s done on the pandemic. Of course, these numbers though, tell a different story. Just in terms of, again, here in DC, one in 10 people, I should say, eight and 10 people, the new cases are Black people. What’s the disconnect there, do you think? What’s failing? What’s broken? What could be happening more to prevent the numbers from going in the direction that they are?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (50:00)
Look, we, as I said, we still have a lot of work to do. That’s very critical and important and it’s alarming those numbers, right? Because like I said, in order to get back to normal, we have to bring everyone along. All communities need to get vaccinated. And we have to be able to do that in a way that, like I said, we don’t leave people behind.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (50:20)
But I think one of the things that we are doing is making sure that we have those trusted voices on the ground. Making sure we have a community core, more than 6,000 people, where we have people who are in those local communities that are continuing to have those conversations with people who have hesitancy, with people who may not know or have the full information. And so this is what we are continuing to do. And this is not lost on us, right? Like I said, those numbers are alarming and we’re going to continue to do the work. It’s not done yet. We are not done yet.
Speaker 11: (50:52)
Okay. [inaudible 00:50:54].
Karine Jean-Pierre: (50:55)
Thank you. I’ll take this last question.
[inaudible 00:51:02] with Spectrum News. Congratulations, by the way. I have to start by apologizing because I’m going to ask about the COVID origins again. But you said you were confident, the administration is confident in US investigation into this. But are you guys confident in the World Health Organization’s credibility? This statement greatly differs from the findings that the organization has put out. They said it was extremely unlikely that this came from a lab leak.
Is the administration going to call on the World Health Organization to call for a new investigation, independent investigation? How confident in the results that you’ll find in that-
Karine Jean-Pierre: (51:37)
We’ve been very clear on that. We’ve been very clear with the WHO to continue to get to the bottom of this. To get the additional data that we need to figure out where the origin of COVID is from or came from. And so this is, like I said, we’ve been in vocal. We’re going to continue working with WHO. We joined, rejoined, the WHO very early on and one of the reasons why we did that is to be able to hold them accountable as well.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (52:07)
This is a global institution that brings everyone together and so it’s important that we support that. They have the information, they get the information, so we know how to move forward.
One question On the budget. Progressives in Congress are calling on the Biden administration to slash funding to the Pentagon’s budget. Representative Mark Pocan, specifically called on the President to cut about $50 billion from the defense budget because of the President’s announcement to pull troops out of Afghanistan. Is this something that President Biden is considering?
Karine Jean-Pierre: (52:43)
Let me just say that we’ll be announcing and rolling out the President proposed budget this coming Friday and I’m not going to get too far ahead of that. What I will say is the President’s proposed budget will outline how he is proposing to pay for a range of the plans the President has put forward and he’s clearly talked about and remains committed to his campaign pledge of pushing for a public option of prescription drugs, something he talked about in his joint session address. And other items, not just that one, but every entity may not be reflected in this budget. But again, I don’t want to get ahead of the President who will be putting out his budget on Friday.
Karine Jean-Pierre: (53:24)
Thank you guys. [crosstalk 00:53:27].