Apr 19, 2022
White House Holds Press Briefing 4/18/22 Transcript
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing on 4/18/22. Read the transcript here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:08)
Jen Psaki: (00:09)
Who knows who’s under here. “No more bunny business,” that’s the line we worked on. Do you guys like it? Thank you for joining us Easter Bunny.
Are there sticks and carrots?
Jen Psaki: (00:19)
Jen Psaki: (00:29)
Okay, a couple of items for you at the top. Happy tax day to those who celebrate, which we hope is everyone in the room.
Oh, bring back the bunny.
Jen Psaki: (00:41)
As part of tax day, we’re highlighting the real difference between the president and Congressional Republicans. President Biden has a simple philosophy, “The middle class deserves some financial breathing room,” which is why his economic plan would give tax relief to tens of millions of families. Families who work hard and deserve a little extra cushion each month. And the president believes billionaires should pay their fair share so we can invest in our economic future and cut the deficit. That’s why is calling on the top 1% of the top 1% to pay minimum tax of 20%. When right now, the wealthiest families can pay a lower average rate than teachers. And let me be crystal clear, the president will not raise taxes for anyone making under $400,000.
Jen Psaki: (01:22)
The Congressional Republican plan however, as Senator Rick Scott outlined, couldn’t be more different. Republicans on Capitol Hill are more than happy to pass a nearly $2 trillion tax giveaway to the wealthy and big corporations under the previous… they were under the previous administration. But now, led by Senator Scott, Republicans want to raise taxes on the middle class, with one independent analysis showing their plan would hike taxes by an average of around $1,500 each year on 75 million American families, 96% of whom make under $100,000. That’s the plan of Congressional Republicans, tax hikes for the middle class, tax hikes for the wealthy and big corporations. President Biden disagrees. It’s time to put the middle class first.
Jen Psaki: (02:07)
Tomorrow, as you may know, the president is traveling to New Hampshire to highlight infrastructure investments to modernize our nation’s ports and waterways and discuss how these investments will strengthen our supply chain, support local economies and help cut costs for American families. American ports are a cornerstone of the United States economy, but outdated infrastructure and the COVID-19 pandemic have strained their capacity and jeopardized global supply chains, which has caused delays and passed costs directly to consumers. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we now have $17 billion to upgrade, repair and maintain our nation’s port infrastructure.
Jen Psaki: (02:48)
As the president continues to use every tool to help bring down prices for Americans, investments that strengthen domestic supply chains and move goods faster and more efficiently are critical to lowering costs for families. So during his trip tomorrow, he will visit Portsmouth [Harbour 00:03:03], which is the only deep water harbor in New Hampshire and handles approximately three point million tons and nearly $2 billion of cargo a year, including critical materials to support the local economy and clean energy production. The port recently complete a project to widen the harbor’s turning basin and will receive funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to maintain safe and efficient operations along the channel. Both crucial projects to accommodate larger ships and heavier loads of cargo.
Jen Psaki: (03:34)
Also wanted to note a bunch of scheduling things today. Today, we are pleased to announce that we will co-host the second Global 19 Summit virtually on May 12th, alongside Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal. The virtual summit will redouble our efforts to end the acute phase of the pandemic and prepare for future pandemics and other health threats. Our role in co-hosting the summit continues to highlight… is to continue to highlight American leadership in the global COVID response with our provision to date of more than $19 billion in health, humanitarian, and economic assistance, and our commitment to providing 1.2 billion vaccine doses to the world for free, of which we’ve already delivered more than 500 million doses. And while we are dedicated to continuing to lead the global COVID response, we also need Congress to urgently do its part to fund the global COVID response. We have requested a supplemental funding package for our most urgent needs, to get shots into the arms and to provide lifesaving tests, treatments, and supplies. And we will obviously continue to work with Congress on getting that funding when they return.
Jen Psaki: (04:39)
Finally, I wanted to… Last thing is that we also announced that on March 12th and 13th, the president will host the leaders of ASEAN in Washington, DC. It will build on President Biden’s participation in the October 2021 US-ASEAN summit, where the president announced $102 million in new initiatives to expand our engagement with ASEAN on COVID-19, promoting economic growth and more. And this we’ll, of course… We’ll have more to preview as we get closer to that trip. Josh, why don’t you kick us off.
Thanks Jen. Happy Monday.
Jen Psaki: (05:15)
Two subject areas. First, a federal judge in Florida says the CDC exceeded its authority with the mask mandate in airports. What’s the White House position?
Jen Psaki: (05:25)
The CDC recommended continuing the order for additional time, two weeks, to be able to assess the latest science in keeping with its responsibility to protect the American people. So this is obviously a disappointing decision. The CDC continues recommending wearing a mask in public transit. As you know, this just came out this afternoon, so right now the Department of Homeland Security, who would be implementing, and the CDC are reviewing the decision. And of course, the Department of Justice would make any determinations about litigation.
Secondly, Russia is expected to virtually attend meetings of the IMF and World Bank this week. Is that appropriate, given the actions in the Ukraine and how should international organizations treat Russia?
Jen Psaki: (06:08)
Well, the president has made clear that he does not believe we should be operating as business as usual. And he’s made clear about his concerns about their participation in the G20. I’d also note that our representative there, the secretary of treasury, has made clear that she isn’t planning to attend events or meetings that the Russians are participating in. But in terms of other determinations beyond that, I don’t have any further comment. Go ahead.
Speaker 1: (06:31)
Question on this move to restart the sale of leases for drilling on public land. How long do you think it will take for these new leases to actually start producing and what impact do you think this may have on gas prices?
Jen Psaki: (06:43)
Well, let me first say that today’s action, as you know, but for everybody, was the result of a court injunction that we continue to appeal. And it’s not in line with the president’s policy, which was to ban additional leasing. Because one, we need to move towards a more clean energy economy, which he strongly believes in, but also because there are 9,000 permits, unused, on lands that could be tapped into by oil companies and we don’t feel they are needed. In terms of how long it will take to get up drilling, because of the court action, I don’t have any assessments on that from here. I would just note that we are going to continue to fight this court injunction that is forcing our hand and allowing this to proceed even as we have taken actions to reduce by 80% the areas to lease and impose stringent environmental standards.
Speaker 1: (07:35)
The president has promised to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. Now you’re having to expand production of fossil fuels when you promised to curtail them. Congress, as we know, has yet to act on many of your climate proposals. Is the president’s ambitious climate change goal and agenda still attainable or are these new leases going to undercut that pledge?
Jen Psaki: (07:56)
Well, again, these leases are not in line with our policy or the president’s view.
Speaker 2: (08:01)
But what is your-
Speaker 1: (08:02)
Policy or not, I mean, this is the situation that you’re in.
Jen Psaki: (08:03)
It is, and we’re going to continue… There is, obviously we’re going to continue to fight this legal action. But I would say that the president remains committed. Addressing the climate crisis is one of the four pillars that he came in, he ran on as president and he will continue to fight for. One of the reasons that this was so troubling to him is because he is so committed to that objective as president and we have continued to propose a historic investment in addressing the climate crisis, something that we will continue to discuss with Congress. So, there are a lot of ways to get there, that we will continue to work with Congress to take actions, but he has also not hesitated to take actions himself through his own authorities to take actions to help our climate.
Speaker 1: (08:50)
So, but are you still confident that goal is achievable?
Jen Psaki: (08:52)
We are continuing to pursue it and we are going to continue to do everything we can to reach it. Go ahead. Go ahead, Steve.
Oh, thank you. House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, saying, “President Putin probably would’ve backed off from invading Ukraine if president Biden had shipped the weapons to Ukraine sooner.” Does the president feel he should have backed it sooner?
Jen Psaki: (09:11)
Well first, I mean just for facts sake, we sent enter record amount of security assistance to Ukraine during President Biden’s first year in office, more than any other president in history. And we shared a significant amount of intelligence with Ukraine about Russia’s intentions and military movements, as you all know because we’ve talked about it in here. $3. 2 billion total, $2.6 billion since this conflict started. That’s in direct contrast with our predecessor who withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid from Ukraine, including javelins, which Mr. McCarthy, who was critical of us in this moment, defended at the time as quote, “the rightful thing to do,” because he claimed people believed there was corruption in the Zelenskyy administration. So, I don’t know if that’s a question for us, as much as a question for him. What has changed in that period of time?
And secondly, are you planning more sanctions this week on Russia, more oligarchs, what can you tell us?
Jen Psaki: (10:05)
We are continuing to review and consider additional sanctions. It’s been an ongoing process, but right now you will… so you will see us continue to expand our sanction’s targets and to continue to take steps to both further tighten our sanctions to prevent evasion and put in place additional sanctions. I also wanted to note a couple of comments for anyone who had questions, which probably isn’t anyone in this room, but maybe. Whether these sanctions are having an impact. One is by the chairwoman of the Russian Central Bank, who said these sanctions are quote, “will now begin to increasingly affect the real sectors of the economy,” and quote, “practically every product.” She also said that quote, “that sanctions are being tightened almost every day.” And quote, “The period during which the economy can live on reserves is finite.” Meaning, these are really having the squeeze that the president, the secretary of state, the secretary of treasury and others have conveyed, but we are continuing to review and I expect we’ll have more in the coming days. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (11:05)
Just to quickly follow up on the mask mandate being voided by this judge. What is the White House’s assessment of what that means for travelers today?
Jen Psaki: (11:12)
Well, it just happened this afternoon and so, the Department of Homeland Security, obviously, overseas the implementation of this and they’re reviewing it as we speak.
Speaker 3: (11:21)
So it’s still in place right now.
Jen Psaki: (11:22)
They’re doing it as we speak, it just came out this afternoon. And if there are any updates while I’m out here, I’m sure we can provide them to all of you.
Speaker 3: (11:28)
Okay. And President Zelenskyy told Jake Tapper yesterday that he wants President Biden to visit Ukraine and he believes that he will. You said last week, there were no plans being made for President Biden to go. Is that still the case?
Jen Psaki: (11:40)
That has not changed. What our focus continues to be on is providing Ukraine, the Ukrainian government, Ukrainian leaders, a historic amount of security assistance. Assistance that’s been adapted based on their needs and their successes on the ground. And obviously, that can be attributed largely to the courage and the bravery of the Ukrainian leaders. But the second reason is, because of the military assistance we prov-
Jen Psaki: (12:03)
But the second reason is because of the military assistance we provided. I would note, because I know this is an understandable question you all have asked, that if anyone were to go … There’s no plans for the president to go, so let me just reiterate that. But we would not outline, from here or anywhere from the government, who, if, and when for security reasons, so we wouldn’t have any details to preview regardless.
Speaker 4: (12:22)
Is the president considering granting president Zelenskyy’s request to make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism?
Jen Psaki: (12:29)
So that is a process that … it’s an authority that obviously exists within the government and at the State department, and in order, just broadly speaking, for any country to be design designated a state sponsor of terror, and there’s only three, North Korea, Sudan, and Iran, at this point in time, just for your full perspective, the Secretary of State would need to determine the government of that country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. And these, of course, designations are made after careful review. So while we have those authorities, I don’t have any update on that or prediction of that. That assessment would be made by the State department.
Jen Psaki: (13:06)
What I would note, which I think is important, is that, for the countries that have been designated state sponsors of terrorism … so I named a couple of them for you … that the four main categories of sanctions that result from designation under these authorities include restrictions on US foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales, certain controls over exports of dual use items, and other financial restrictions. And what we’ve already done to date is, of course, impose significant financial sanctions, export controls, and curtailed restrictions on financial assistance. So when you’re thinking about the impact, these are already a lot of steps that we’ve taken. But I have nothing to predict on that front. That’s a process that would have to be reviewed through the State department.
Speaker 4: (13:49)
Okay. Last question. Russia warned the United States last week to stop arming Ukraine or risk unpredictable consequences. What does the US believe those consequences would be
Jen Psaki: (13:59)
Well, we’re not going to comment. I mean, I’m not going to speculate on empty threats or threats by President Putin or by Russian leadership. What we have done here is done exactly what the President said we would do from the beginning, which is to, if they invaded, we would be providing significant security assistance, economics assistance, and support to the Ukrainian people. And we’re going to continue to do exactly that. Go ahead.
Speaker 5: (14:26)
I want to belabor this only because we’ve heard from the airlines, from airport passengers. There may be people sitting at an airport bar watching right now wondering. If they’re boarding a flight tonight, is the mask mandate still in place?
Jen Psaki: (14:38)
We’re continuing to recommend people wear masks. I don’t have any update. This just came out through the courts just this afternoon. And as soon as there is an update, we will provide that to all of you.
Speaker 5: (14:48)
Is the White House anticipating an announcement by Homeland Security tonight?
Jen Psaki: (14:53)
They are assessing it right now. And as soon as they have an assessment and an update on additional steps, they’ll make that available.
Speaker 5: (14:59)
But if the DOJ, say, doesn’t stay the order tonight, or first thing tomorrow morning, are passengers supposed to-
Jen Psaki: (15:05)
I understand why you’re asking, and certainly, no one here is trying to provoke uncertainty with passengers. We also think the mask mandate should be in place and that it’s safer for individuals who are flying to continue to wear masks. So we would say to anyone and sitting out there, “We recommend you wear masks on the airplane.” And then as soon as we can provide an update from here, hopefully soon, we’ll provide that to all of you.
Speaker 5: (15:26)
Two more related CDC things.
Jen Psaki: (15:27)
Speaker 5: (15:27)
In the ruling, the judge said that she accepts the CDC’s argument that masks limit COVID’s spread, but that alone is not sufficient to overcome what she concludes is a rule that exceeds the agency’s authority, to put it in place. The administration believes otherwise, right?
Jen Psaki: (15:45)
Otherwise, we wouldn’t have put it in place to begin with.
Speaker 5: (15:48)
So that potentially is the crux of an appeal or an attempt to stop-
Jen Psaki: (15:52)
Well, again, I would leave that to the Department of Justice. But what we announced last week was just a two week extension in order to have time to assess what we’ve all seen is rising cases and make an assessment and recommendation with that in mind. So of course it’s disappointing.
Speaker 5: (16:09)
There’s another issue the CDC is in the middle of that’s troubling some Democrats, and that is, of course, the impending end of title 42. Gary Peters, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, another Democratic Senator today suggesting he has doubts about ending title 42. Says that Secretary Mayorkas is scheduled to be there for a budget hearing, I believe, later this month or next month. What more, though, is the administration sharing with these Democrats and Republicans, but notably a handful of Democrats who say they don’t see a firm plan, they want more details, and the administration seems to be rushing into this with no sense of what the repercussions could be?
Jen Psaki: (16:49)
Well, I think it’s important to remember this is not an immigration authority for anyone who has concerns about it, nor is it an immigration plan. We’ve never said it was. It is a health authority that Congress gave the CDC authority to make a determination about, about whether it needs to stay in place or not. There is no question we have a broken immigration system. There’s more we need to do. We’ve been saying that from the first day the President took office. And anyone who wants to work on that, Democrats, Republicans, anyone, how we can put smarter security in place, how we can have an asylum processing system that works, we would love to do that. But what is happening right now is they’re essentially holding hostage funding for COVID. And we are going to run out of funding. We are already running out of funding for key programs. So our issue here is let’s move forward with the COVID funding. We’re happy to have a discussion about the broken immigration system. We agree it’s broken. Let’s work together on addressing that.
Speaker 5: (17:43)
[inaudible 00:17:43] say that because there’s this amendment to the COVID plan that would put it-
Jen Psaki: (17:46)
I say that because that’s the root issue here, isn’t it? I mean, anyone who’s raising concerns, they’re tying it to the COVID funding.
Speaker 5: (17:56)
Republicans are, but you got a handful of Democrats who aren’t necessarily supportive of-
Jen Psaki: (17:59)
I understand that, but we’re also happy to work with anyone on immigration reform and any concerns they have.
Speaker 5: (18:04)
But it sounds like the answer is, “If you’ve got concerns, you, Congress, do something about it. Here’s what happens on May 25th, once title 42 is gone.”
Jen Psaki: (18:12)
The President put forward a bill his first day in office. It’s not, “You do something about it.” Let’s work together on it. And we’re happy to do that. You have different ideas, you want to talk about how to move this forward, let’s do that. At the same time, what’s happening is this COVID funding, which means people who are uninsured are not going to be able to get access to treatments, to vaccines. We’re not going to be able to get the fourth booster shot to everybody. We’re not going to be able to get the treatments for immunocompromised.
Jen Psaki: (18:42)
So that’s where we’re at. And that’s why it’s important to move that funding forward. And yes, our system is broken. Let’s address it. But this is a health authority, not an immigration authority. Go ahead.
Thank you, Jen. You said about this mask ruling out of a federal court in Florida that it’s a disappointing decision, and you say you continue to recommend that people wear masks. Why is it that we can sit here in the White House briefing room with no masks, but people can’t sit in an airplane cabin with no masks?
Jen Psaki: (19:12)
Well, Peter, I’m not a doctor. You’re not a doctor, that I’m aware of. If you’re a doctor, I wasn’t aware of that until today.
Can confirm. Correct.
Jen Psaki: (19:18)
Okay. Not a doctor. Just making sure. I don’t know.
Speaker 5: (19:22)
Nor do you play one on TV.
Jen Psaki: (19:23)
Nor does he play one on TV. There you go. Most days. But these determinations … Remember the masking guidance is green, yellow, and red. We are currently in a green zone in Washington, DC, so they’re not recommending it. Some people can still wear a mask if they want to. Many people do. Or wear them in meetings, or wear them at certain times where you’re going to be around or sitting close to people. Or maybe you have an immunocompromised parent or friend, and so people make that decision. And this is based on health considerations and data that the CDC looks at about transmissibility as we’ve seen an increase in cases on airplanes.
Jen, would the President support, if a flight is leaving from an airport in a green zone, those people don’t have to wear masks?
Jen Psaki: (20:07)
Again, Peter, there’s been long a difference, from the beginning, about people on an airplane and in federal transportation vehicles and situations than where they are in locations. We here continue to be, in Washington, DC, a green zone. But what we’d asked for, I think it’s important to remember, is a two week extension … or not asked for. What we had announced was a two week extension to look at the data and make recommendations based on the data and the science about whether it should be continued or not.
Okay. On a different topic, we have new reporting that at least 23 people apprehended at the Southern border in 2021 are on the terror watch list. Why do you guys think it is that somebody on a terror watch list would want to get into the United States undetected?
Jen Psaki: (20:49)
Well, I can’t make an assessment of that, but what I can tell you is that your data you’re citing here means the border patrol was doing their job. I mean, they apprehended people at the border.
2000 illegal immigrants a day got away last month. Are you saying that you can say with certainty none of them are on a terror watch list?
Jen Psaki: (21:09)
Here’s what we’re talking about, encounters we know, and of a suspected terrorist attempting to cross the Southern border, they’re very uncommon. We’re talking about a few dozen annual encounters at most, and these encounters represent significantly less than the 0.01% of total encounters per fiscal year in recent years. But I’d note, these individuals, these 23 people, the border patrol, they stopped them. They prevented them from getting into the country. They’re protecting our homeland and keeping us safe.
So the President is not worried about holes in the Southern border being exploited by people trying to come in and kill Americans?
Jen Psaki: (21:42)
He’s grateful to the border patrol for doing their job and stopping these people and preventing them from getting into the country.
And one additional question about something that happened a few months ago down at the border. We’ve been told that the mounted border patrol officers the President accused of whipping migrants have been notified they will not face criminal charges. So when is the President going to apologize to them?
Jen Psaki: (22:04)
There is a process and an investigation that’s gone through the Department of Homeland Security. I don’t have any update on that.
The president said that they were whipping people, which would be a criminal offense, and they’ve been told they’re not going to be criminally charged.
Jen Psaki: (22:15)
And there was an investigation into that, and I’ll let the Department of Homeland Security announce any conclusion of that investigation.
You accused these officers of brutal and inappropriate measures. Now that they’ve been told they will not be criminally charged, will you apologize?
Jen Psaki: (22:28)
And Peter, there was an investigation into their behavior. So that investigation is playing out. Whenever it’s going to be announced, the Department of Homeland Security will announce that. And then I’m sure we’ll have a comment on it after that. Go ahead.
Back on the mask issue, as the debate is going on about next steps, is there any concern in the White House that this issue, now that there are some Americans who are aware of this ruling by the Florida judge, that it could prompt some of the tensions we’ve seen on airplanes in recent months until there’s a resolution?
Jen Psaki: (22:58)
Yeah. Kelly, it’s a great question. Obviously, what we’re trying to do, what we would encourage, is calm in all cases. And because this ruling just came out this afternoon, I know the objective of everybody involved and all the necessary authorities in government is to make a determination about next steps as quickly as possible. So that’s certainly our hope, and we want to do everything we can to prevent that.
On the oil leases, does the President see any secondary benefit to the fact that, even though this is not his policy objective, that there could be some additional production that could help, given the fact that gas prices are high and there has been a push to have additional production because of the war in Ukraine, even though it’s not his policy objective?
Jen Psaki: (23:41)
I can tell you from talking with him about this this morning, he does not. He believes that, as he announced, he remains committed to the ban he called for on the expansion of leasing on federal lands, in part because he wants to move toward a clean energy economy, and he is very committed to that, and address climate change, but also because there’s 9,000 unused …
Jen Psaki: (24:03)
… and address climate change, but also because there’s 9,000 unused leases that can be tapped into and used. And we certainly have encouraged oil companies to do that, to help address exactly, as you said, the need to get more supply in the marketplace.
Speaker 6: (24:14)
Does he see this move by the Department of the Interior as a going against his campaign pledge?
Jen Psaki: (24:23)
Well, he knows that it was the result of a court injunction, as you heard Secretary Haaland say. And so her hands were tied in many ways as they can be by legal requirements. But what they did, which he certainly supported was take steps to reduce by 80% the areas to lease. And they also imposed stringent environmental safeguards in order to take additional steps, even as the court injunction made them take these steps.
Speaker 6: (24:53)
You did not mention Cuba as a state sponsor of terror. Should we read into that?
Jen Psaki: (24:56)
I did not mean to not mention them. I wanted to cite some examples just to give people a sense of how few there are and what kinds of countries. I wasn’t meant to-
Speaker 6: (25:05)
You’re not lifting that.
Jen Psaki: (25:06)
I’m not announcing new policy. No, I’m not. I’m not announcing new policy. I just wanted to give an indication of what that is and how limited the number of countries are. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (25:15)
Thank you. This is a question that comes from one of my colleagues who’s reporting in Ukraine right now. He is wondering, as conditions in Mariupol continue to disintegrate, is the United States considering any creative ways to help the Ukrainians who are under siege, for instance, sending in third-country planes or planes from a neutral organization, like the Red Cross to get relief in there?
Jen Psaki: (25:39)
You mean humanitarian relief?
Speaker 7: (25:41)
Jen Psaki: (25:42)
We are engaged with surrounding countries with aid organizations about a range of ways to get aid and assistance in. And obviously from the start of this, if there was an allowance or an implementation of these humanitarian corridors, it would’ve helped enable. But we can’t talk about a lot of those things from here, but we are going to continue to take steps to provide humanitarian assistance in every way that we can. I would note, you didn’t ask this question, but just one other little update, there were four planes that arrived of military assistance over the course of the weekend. Another one is supposed to arrive today, if it hasn’t already, from the 800 million package, the president announced. So just to give you a sense of our efforts to continue to get more assistance in.
Speaker 7: (26:25)
And completely unrelated, but today on a background call about climate policy, an administration official said that the White House is in touch with a wide range of members of Congress, about a reconciliation package. So are negotiations ongoing for Build Back Better or Building a Better America or whatever you’re calling it now, and are you talking about it?
Jen Psaki: (26:46)
We are talking about it, whatever you call it, a reconciliation package, including getting historic investment in climate, including lowering the cost of childcare, elder care, in healthcare, taking all of these steps that the president has been committed to. These conversations have been ongoing over the course of the last several months.
Speaker 7: (27:09)
Is Joe Manchin involved in those conversations? Who are you talking to?
Jen Psaki: (27:12)
We’re talking to everybody across the board. I’m not going to name all the names, but they’re all included, Democrats across the board who want to get this done? Go ahead.
Speaker 8: (27:21)
Is the US moving any closer to reopening its embassy in Kyiv now that Spain is joining France, Italy and others in doing so?
Jen Psaki: (27:29)
Well, certainly that’s our objective is to open it. But what we are evaluating is obviously security considerations and when the State Department is prepared to do that. So when we look at kind of who should go first and how many and how many people and when, but it’s all done through the State Department and they make those initial recommendations about when to return. But that certainly is our objective. Obviously having a diplomatic presence on the ground is important.
Speaker 8: (27:56)
And just one more thing, President Zelenskyy says the Russians have begun their offensive to take control of Eastern Ukraine. What is the Administration’s assessment of what’s happening there now?
Jen Psaki: (28:06)
Well, I know that my Defense Department colleague just did a briefing, so I’d really point you to the Department of Defense for any kind of on the ground updates. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (28:14)
Yesterday on CBS, Senator Coons said that without the West coming more forcefully to the Ukraine’s aid, he said, “I deeply worry that we will see Ukraine turn into Syria.” Does the president share that concern?
Jen Psaki: (28:26)
That’s not words or a phrase the president would use, or we would use from the United States. Obviously what we’ve seen to date is the Ukrainians bravely fight back against the Russians and win, essentially the battle of Kyiv and continue to fight back against their efforts across the country. We’ve known and predicted that they would move their ground game to Eastern Ukraine, which is exactly what they’ve done. And we also have known and predicted, and when Jake Sullivan was here just a week or two ago, he also conveyed that Moscow was likely to launch air and missile strikes across Ukraine to cause military and economic damage. That’s what we’re seeing in Lviv and other places at this point in time. But what we’ve seen, I think is them behave bravely with huge courage and they have had the success in pushing back against the Russians because of that, but also because of the military assistance provided by the United States. So no, we would not share that assessment.
Speaker 9: (29:25)
And on a diplomatic front, is the Administration any closer to naming an ambassador in Ukraine?
Jen Psaki: (29:32)
I certainly understand the question. I don’t have any update on that at this point from here. Go ahead.
Speaker 10: (29:36)
Thanks, Jen. I want to ask about a story some of my colleagues reported earlier today. Some allies of former President Trump have been pressing for state houses around the country to pass resolutions for sending electoral college votes for President Biden, and to bring lawsuits that seek to prove baseless claims of large-scale voter fraud. Legal experts have called this effort preposterous, but is an organized push among those allies to decertify the last election, something this Administration is monitoring or concerned about.
Jen Psaki: (30:06)
Well, I would say that there have been dozens of court cases that have not been won by our predecessor and people who support him in an effort to overturn the outcome of the last election. And our focus is on governing for the American people, delivering for the American people and less on focusing on what he and his people are up to. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (30:28)
Yeah. Thanks, Jen. I wanted to follow up on the question earlier regarding Senator Coons’ comments. One of the points he was making was that the US needs to have a conversation about sending US troops to Ukraine. He told Face the Nation yesterday, “The American people cannot turn away from this tragedy in Ukraine. I think the 21st century turns on how fiercely we defend freedom in Ukraine and that Putin will only stop when we stop him.” What’s the White House’s response to this suggestion for the Senator that the US needs to start having a conversation about maybe sending troops to Ukraine? And does the president agree that Putin will stop only when we, the US stop him?
Jen Psaki: (31:10)
Well, what I would say is, one, Senator Coons is a close friend of the president’s and the Administration, and we disrespectfully disagree with his proposal. The president has no plans to send troops, to fight a war with Russia. He doesn’t think that’s in our national security interests in the interest of the American people. And so what our focus has been on has been obviously providing this historic amount of security assistance, military assistance, weapons to the Ukrainians that has helped them effectively fight this war, and economic assistance as well. This is also strengthening their hands at the negotiating table, even while we are putting in place a historic package of economic sanctions that, as I noted earlier, even the head of the Russian Central Bank is noting the devastating impact of these sanctions on the Russian economy. So, that has been our strategic focus. Of course, we support the Ukrainians in every way possible, but the president is not going to fight a war with Russia. Go ahead.
Speaker 12: (32:13)
The president has done or will do a lot of travel in recent days to places when so-called House frontliners are running for reelection. And I wanted to know if you could talk about how much political considerations are weighed or taken into consideration on the White House’s side or from the president. And also, what kind of an impact do you think, if any will, his discussion and promotion of things like the infrastructure law will have on voters as well?
Jen Psaki: (32:35)
Well, I’m always careful about what I get into about politics from up here. I’ve learned my lesson, but what I will say is that the president is proud to go out in the country in blue states, red states, purple states, to talk about his agenda, both what he has achieved, including the bipartisan infrastructure law that is rebuilding roads, rails, and bridges, and replacing lead pipes around the country, expanding broadband access across the country in communities, no matter what your political party is.
Jen Psaki: (33:06)
And he is also proud to go out and talk about his economic agenda that he’s still fighting to get passed, which includes childcare, healthcare, elder care, and reducing costs. And his view is that for anyone out there, when they’re out there, senators or members of Congress who are going to be talking to their communities, that standing up for his agenda and standing up for this agenda that will make the American people’s lives better is a winning argument. So I would say I’m not going to overly note the political sway of districts or states, but he’s always said he wants to be the president for all people, govern for all people. And that means talking about his agenda in red, blue and purple states. Go ahead.
Speaker 13: (33:50)
Jennifer, going back to coronavirus. Some of us recently here and around the country have been taking home tests to diagnose ourselves. And when those come up positive, those aren’t always reported to public health and sometimes they can’t be, sometimes they won’t even accept that. Do you believe that we have an accurate sense of the spread of the coronavirus right now?
Jen Psaki: (34:11)
Well, I think what’s important to remember is that, one, how CDC continues to track COVID cases that are reported, they do it really through hospitalizations and death. And those numbers around severe disease come directly from hospitals and states. And what we’re seeing through those is that we’re at the lowest level of hospitalization since the start of the pandemic. I believe we’re still at that point in time. So we certainly encourage people to share their test results and contact their doctor because they may be eligible for Paxlovid or any other therapeutics. But beyond that, as I think I would note, when we put out the president’s 100-page plan, we noted that our focus was really on hospitalizations, death and severe cases, even as we’re encouraging people to report testing for contact tracing and other purposes, when they test positive.
Speaker 14: (35:03)
Under Title 42, there is a bipartisan group of senators, including Sinema, Manchin, some are at risk, including Senator Kelly, who are proposing the idea of letting the Surgeon General certify when the public health emergency has ended. Is that something the president would consider and then why or why not?
Jen Psaki: (35:22)
Well, the Congress gave the CDC the authority, so-
Speaker 14: (35:26)
But this would be a change in that and I’m wondering if you’re open to that idea.
Jen Psaki: (35:29)
Well, I don’t have any prediction of that at this point. The CDC is the public health authority for the country. So I don’t have any more prediction for that. Go ahead.
Speaker 15: (35:38)
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida just announced Japan taking in a group of refugees, which is really a big deal for Japan. And the Foreign Minister Hayashi flew back a group of refugees from Poland to Japan. Is Administration aware of that? And then also, with the trip to Japan next month, any update on whether an interview with the president is an offering?
Jen Psaki: (36:02)
Oh, is an interview-
Speaker 16: (36:03)
The president is in [inaudible 00:36:02]
Jen Psaki: (36:03)
Oh, is an interview pitch. Okay. I said, “Oh, an interview with whom?” I like your style. We certainly welcome and applaud the actions of Japan, the Japanese leadership and are grateful to their steps in taking in refugees and their humanitarian support through this conflict. And they’re an important partner, as you know, and have been a part of important meetings on the conflict in Ukraine in recent months, including on the president’s last trip to Europe. I will certainly take under advisement your request. Go ahead, Eugene.
Thanks, Jen. There have been kind of a growing rumbling among economists about the R word, recession that coming possibly-
Jen Psaki: (36:50)
The R word.
The R word.
Jen Psaki: (36:52)
I was like, where are we going at this? Yes.
And I guess I’m just curious how the administration is viewing the possibility of that? And what kind of conversations are happening right now out about a possible recession?
Jen Psaki: (37:03)
Well, we continue to believe our economists. Most importantly, that the United States economy will deal with challenges ahead from a position of strength because of the president’s economic plan. It’s important to remember, we created more jobs last year than any other year in history. We obviously have a very low unemployment rate in the country, and we’ve seen wages go up in a number of areas. I would note that there was a Goldman Sachs… We may be referring to this, the Goldman Sachs analysis. And even in their analysis, they said, quote, “We still do not see a recession as inevitable. However, particularly since the fed’s goal of cooling the economy while avoiding a recession will be helped by post COVID normalizations in labor supply and durable goods prices.” So our view is we’re in a period of historic job growth, strong business investments, strong consumer and business balance sheets and normalizing supply chains. Those are all good signs for the economy, but obviously we’ll continue to monitor any concerns we have about where things are headed.
Speaker 17: (38:03)
Then, if inflation continues to rise, what are the concerns about that? Because the fed’s make it a lot.
Jen Psaki: (38:03)
Well, the federal reserve continues to project that it will moderate by the end of the year. And obviously we support their steps they’ve announced to recalibrate, and we’ve already seen some of those actions taken. But really it’s under their purview, so we would point to their projections. Go ahead.
Speaker 18: (38:22)
So just a follow up on Title 42. The issue that democratic senators have brought up is that there isn’t a detailed plan, they think to deal with the expected rise in migrants at the border. So does the White House feel confident that the administration has necessary resources and operational plan in place to process and house and transport migrants?
Jen Psaki: (38:40)
Well, I would point you to the fact that the Department of Homeland Security put out a plan that they briefed members on, when we announced the implementation period. An extended period that wasn’t immediate, at the time that includes surging resources and making sure we had the type of resources available to meet any needs. So they did put out a preparedness plan at the time, but we’re going to have continuing conversations. And we certainly welcome any engagement to do that. Our issue is more the hooking it with COVID funding because of the devastating impact that would have on communities across the country.
Speaker 19: (39:17)
And just another question on a times Op-Ed that Senator Warren wrote today, saying that Democrats need to deliver on more of their agenda in order to keep the majorities in Congress. Do you agree with that premise? And at this point, I know you named a few of the legislative priorities already in the briefing, but are there top three priorities that the White House feels they can actually get done before the midterms?
Jen Psaki: (39:42)
We love all of our children and the legislature around here. What I will say is that we’ve talked a bit about steps to lower costs, which I know Senator Warren of course, strongly supports as well. For childcare, for healthcare, for elder care, for prescription drugs, these are no brainers for most people in the country. And also making the tax system more fair. We think those are all issues that Democrats, but also a lot of people around the country would love for us to do more on and love to talk about more. We, of course, as I’ve stated a couple times in this briefing want to get COVID funding because we think it’s essential, so that we can continue a lot of the programs that have had such a huge impact on people’s lives. Including for the uninsured, including making sure we have boosters, for fourth boosters for every American who wants them, whenever people are eligible. Including being able to buy enough Evusheld and treatments for the immunocompromised, that’s hugely important to us.
Jen Psaki: (40:42)
And then of course, we want to get the innovation act passed because we believe that’s something that should have bipartisan support. And we want to make sure we have manufacturing here in the United States, something that can make us stronger over the long term. There are many other things, but I would say those are a couple of the things that we will continue to fight to move forward. Yeah.
Speaker 18: (41:03)
What about the premise that the administration and Democrats in Congress need to get more done in order to have a shot at the majority.
Jen Psaki: (41:10)
I would say, I’m not going to make political predictions from here. What I will say though, is that everybody looks at a choice and what each party is fighting for, is advocating for, has gotten accomplished, but also what their vision is for the future. And we’re proud of our vision.
Speaker 17: (41:25)
Thanks, Jen. To go back to the virtual COVID summit.
Jen Psaki: (41:27)
Speaker 17: (41:28)
You just mentioned again, the need for Congress to improve COVID funding. Does the White House see that date May 12th for the summit, as a deadline for Congress to get that funding approved?
Jen Psaki: (41:37)
We don’t, but we just see it as a reminder of how important it is to continue to take steps, to be the provider, the arsenal vaccines to the world. Something we have already done since the last summit, while the world has made significant progress in scaling up vaccination efforts. And COVAX has now provided almost 1.2 billion vaccines to more… COVAX yes, to more than 140 countries with 88% of those contributions going to low and middle income countries. We’re not at the global vaccination rate that we need to be, or that health experts project we want to be at, right? It’s a 70% vaccination target, that’s the global target set by the world’s health organization. And while vaccination rates are rising, only approximately 20% of countries are fully vaccinated, at least 70% of their population, but this is an opportunity. Obviously we’re going to continue to fight for our funding here, but we will continue to press other countries to do more, to help the world make progress as well.
Speaker 17: (42:44)
And along those lines, we’ve heard USAID Chief Samantha Power say earlier this month that if there isn’t that global COVID funding, if Congress put something together without it, that the US would have to turn its back on the countries that need urgent help to boost vaccination rates. Will it be difficult for the US to take a lead at a summit like that, if that funding has not come through?
Jen Psaki: (43:04)
Well, we are far and away the leader in the world, that will not change between now and the summit, regardless of funding. However, we want to continue to be and continue to be providing not just vaccine doses, but also the know how and equipment and supplies that countries around the world need.
Speaker 20: (43:21)
Jen more mass shootings this past weekend. More mass shootings, two teenage boys dead, dozens injured. What does the president believe is causing such a callous disregard for human life in this country?
Jen Psaki: (43:34)
Well, let me first say, and thank you for the question. These shootings are horrific and must stop. Our prayers are with the survivors, those who are lost and their families. I can’t attribute, obviously this just happened over the weekend, the reasoning. But what I can tell you is that it’s a reminder of the need to take more steps to stop gun crime, something the president has strongly supported and advocated for since for decades in public office. Cracking down in gun traffickers, putting more cops on the beat, investing community anti-crime programs. And of course also confirming a very qualified individual, Steve Dettelbach to lead the ATF.
Speaker 21: (44:12)
Aside from laws, what does the president have in mind, if anything, a plan to improve? To get people to respect life more? To respect other human beings? Laws aside, you can’t legislate morality and values, right? Human life. Does he ever talk about that openly to you or anyone else?
Jen Psaki: (44:32)
I think every time that you’ve seen the president talk about shootings, the impact on families, on human beings, on loved ones, on communities, he talks about that human impact. But it also is true that in order to reduce and change the direction of crime and gun crime, which is the majority of crime we need to have more laws in place. Go ahead.
Speaker 22: (44:57)
Thank you, Texas Governor Abbott said that quote, ” Financial pain was necessary to get officials to take action on illegal immigration.” Is there any sense that those border inspections did cause financial pain? That there was any disruption to supply chain or anything like that you are tracking?
Jen Psaki: (45:14)
Well, while I don’t have an extended summary analysis. What I do know is that you don’t have to look farther than the comments made by business leaders, trade organizations of all political stripes and parties and their opposition to the unnecessary, additional steps that the governor was implementing. And there’s $1 million in trade crossing over the US Mexico border every minute. So there’s no question that putting these unnecessary inspections in place, which resulted at the time in the drop in commercial traffic of up to 60 to 70% in some ports, was having a huge impact on the local community, on businesses. And that’s why so many people were so outspoken about it.
Speaker 22: (45:59)
And just quickly, do you have an update on the plan for Ukrainian refugees? Will it be a parole program like you have for Afghans or any-
Jen Psaki: (46:06)
Yeah, I certainly understand the question. I don’t have any update in this moment. That’s exactly the type of program, but there are a lot of considerations, so hopefully we’ll have more soon. Go ahead.
Speaker 23: (46:15)
Thank you, Jen. Does President Biden have confidence in Senator Diane Feinstein?
Jen Psaki: (46:20)
Speaker 23: (46:21)
In Senator Diane Feinstein?
Jen Psaki: (46:22)
Yes. She’s a long time friend, a proud public servant and someone he has long enjoyed serving with and working with.
Speaker 23: (46:27)
And after that report came out last week, questioning her health, did the president reach out to her at all?
Jen Psaki: (46:31)
I don’t have any updates on private conversations.
Jen Psaki: (46:34)