Apr 10, 2022
White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds news briefing 4/08/22 Transcript
White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds news briefing 4/08/22. Read the transcript here.
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Jen Psaki: (00:00)
… and its needs. All of the anti-armor and anti-air systems from the two packages of security assistance the president approved in March have been delivered. We are continuing work with allies and partners to identify additional weapon systems to help the Ukrainian military defend its country. Obviously there was the announcement about the S-300s earlier today, and our efforts to work to backfill that.
Jen Psaki: (00:25)
At President Zelensky’s request, this includes helping Ukraine acquire long range anti- aircraft systems and munitions that they’re trained to use. More than 30 nations have sent Ukraine security assistance, thanks in part to the leadership of President Biden and diplomacy that he has been implementing for months now. On April 5th, we announced an additional $100 million in security assistance to Ukraine through a presidential drawdown authority. We also announced $300 million in security assistance on April 1st, under authorities provided by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
Jen Psaki: (00:57)
These announcements bring the US commitment to more than $1.7 billion in security assistance since Russia’s February 24th invasion, and $2.4 billion since the beginning of the administration. I will not read through all of this for you. You can all course read it yourself, and we will provide all of the list to all of you if you did not receive the department of defense fact sheet. I also wanted to note that today, according to a new independent study, the Biden administration’s historic vaccination program saved 2.3 million lives in the United States, prevented 17 million hospitalizations and 66 million cases, and avoided $900 billion in healthcare costs.
Jen Psaki: (01:39)
Over the past 15 months, the president has mounted a successful nationwide vaccination effort while executing a comprehensive strategy on treatments, testing and more. As a result schools are open, our economy is booming and importantly today’s report shows we’ve spared millions of families the immeasurable loss that too many others have suffered. And because of the president’s comprehensive response, we’ve entered a new moment in our fight against the virus. While COVID isn’t over, Americans now have more tools than ever before to protect themselves, and this country is moving forward safely, back to many of our more normal routines.
Jen Psaki: (02:16)
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress are holding up critical funding. We need to make even more progress to save even more lives and to stay prepared against any potential surges or variants. Inaction will leave our nation less prepared for future surges and variants. It will mean fewer vaccines, treatments and tests for the American people. This is deeply disappointing and it should be unacceptable to every American. I also wanted to give you a sense of the week ahead, just one trip next week that we announced earlier today, at this point, there could be more. On Thursday the president will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina to discuss his administration’s efforts to make more in America, rebuild our supply chains here at home, and bring down costs for the American people as part of building a better America.
Jen Psaki: (03:02)
Following that trip, he will travel to Camp David, where he will remain over the Easter weekend. And then finally, as I’ve been doing a little bit this week, I just want to shout out some amazing colleagues I have. Louis who we have stolen from FEMA, not really stolen. He’s a detail. Well, he’s a fellow actually. We’ve had him since November. Soon they will steal him back. And Louis has been remarkable. Louis has been reading Russian media, which comes in great use. He has been tracking down a range of coverage about the war in Ukraine. He has been relentless in giving us updates and providing us information, and we’re incredibly grateful to Louis and we’ll be sad to see you go back to FEMA to do very important work.
Jen Psaki: (03:46)
Many of you know Amanda Finney. I call her the mayor because she knows every person seemingly who works in the building and on the complex, which is about 2000 people. I would not survive this job without Amanda Finney. You probably would all not have received all the help you’ve received about a range of things without Amanda Finney. She is smart, sassy, levelheaded, stable, she’s remarkable, and we may all work for her one day in some capacity. I certainly may, but I am very grateful to her. So just wanted to chat that out. And her yellow suit is very joyful for a joyful day. Okay. With that it’s a Friday,
Speaker 1: (04:20)
Right. Thanks so much. I’ve got a couple things.
Jen Psaki: (04:22)
Sure. First on the missile attack at this train station. Does the administration think that Russia might have intentionally targeted the train station knowing that there will be a lot of civilians there?
Jen Psaki: (04:33)
Well, what we’ve seen over the course of the last six weeks or more than that, has been what the president himself has characterized as war crimes, which is the intentional targeting of civilians. This is yet another horrific atrocity committed by Russia, striking civilians who are trying to evacuate and reach safety. Where we are now is we’re going to support efforts to investigate this attack. As we document Russia’s actions, hold them accountable, we will continue to surge as security assistance and weapons deliveries to help Ukraine defend their country. Obviously, the targeting of civilians would certainly be a war crime, and we’ve already called a range of the actions we’ve seen to date a war crime, but we’re going to be supporting efforts to investigate exactly what happened here.
Speaker 1: (05:16)
Okay. Changing topics, senior administration officials have publicly gone on TV suggesting it’s possible the president’s got COVID. I’m wondering is the administration attempting to prepare the public for the possibilities of the president testing positive?
Jen Psaki: (05:33)
Well, what we’re trying to do is be as transparent and direct with the American people as possible about the fact that while the president takes a range of protocols, we have a range of protocols in place here that are aligned and even beyond the CDC requirements, those include as we’ve outlined here, many times in the past testing before you see the president, testing before you travel with him, social distancing when possible. We believe we have the tools and protocol to address this point we are in the virus, but like anyone else, the president may at some point test positive for COVID. And while we have seen an increase in recent… I would just note. While we’ve seen an increase in cases around people, I should just say that some of us may know, I would also note that cases remain down 95% since the height of Omicron.
Jen Psaki: (06:31)
That is fact, that is data, even as we’ve seen cases of people we know. But what is important for the and people to know is that he has taken a range of precautions as we all have, but he’s also taken steps like getting the second booster as he did last week in public. And his doctors are comfortable that he could continue to carry out his duties because of all these steps and precautions and protections he’s taken. And certainly that’s one of the reasons we encourage the rest of the American public to do the same. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (07:01)
This is the first time that we’ve heard white house officials sort of describe it as a certain possibility that the president could get COVID. Are you saying that you think it’s more possible now given the little outbreak that we’re seeing in D.C right now?
Jen Psaki: (07:15)
No, we’re just saying that it is a possibility. Again, cases are down 95% across the country, since the height of Omicron. While cases are up in Washington, D.C, they’re also far below the height of the cases and where they were in Omicron. But it is also the case that despite all the precautions we take and even with the president being double boosted, he could still test positive for COVID, just as many people in the White House have, many people in the press Corps have. That is a possibility, and we want to be transparent with the American public about that.
Speaker 2: (07:47)
By our rough count here, you have at least 18 politicians and people close to the president who’ve now tested positive this week though. And you’ve reiterated all of the extra precautions that you are taking to try and keep him safe, some of the extra masking and testing protocol, but just to be safe, have you considered maybe cutting down some of the big indoor events or changing your tactic with some of these events?
Jen Psaki: (08:08)
Well, clearly we did the event, the historic event today outside. That was in part to ensure that we could have a huge number of people on the south lawn celebrating the confirmation of justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. But also we know that having events outside is better for safety protocols. There’s no question about that. But what’s important for the American people to know and understand is that because of all the steps we’ve taken, because the president is double boosted, because obviously he has access to the best healthcare in the world, but his doctors have assessed that these are risks that can be taken. We risk-assess just like everybody out in the country. And it’s important for him to be able to continue his presidential duties, now, and even if he tests positive in the future. Just like Americans out there in the country are taking their kids to school, they go to the grocery store, maybe they’re making a decision to go to dinner. This is a time where we are certainly living with the virus, but we have a range of tools at our disposal to do that. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (09:10)
Thanks Jen. A couple of quick questions on oil and then one on the French election. We have some reporting showing that the administration is considering easing sanctions to allow some oil imports from Venezuela as a way to replace banned energy shipments from Russia. Can you talk a little bit about any such considerations?
Jen Psaki: (09:29)
I’m not aware of that being under consideration.
Speaker 3: (09:31)
Okay. At the moment, is it going to perhaps be considered for going forward?
Jen Psaki: (09:37)
It has not been, so I’m not aware of being in consideration.
Speaker 3: (09:40)
Okay. And one other one on when Daleep was in India, he delivered this warning to India to not raise purchases of Russian oil. And we were wondering if perhaps sanctions along similar are being considered for other nations asking them to keep purchases of Russian oil only limited to previous levels and perhaps not-
Jen Psaki: (10:02)
First, I wouldn’t characterize it as a warning, nor did we at the time. He went and had a constructive conversation and made clear that while it’s the decision of each individual country, including India, to determine whether they’re going to import Russian oil, it is only one to 2% of their imports, about 10% of their imports is from the United States. And so he conveyed, of course, they should abide by sanctions which are not related to that decision, but also we would be here to help them diversify and move towards even reducing further beyond the one to 2%.
Speaker 3: (10:33)
Is that decision perhaps being relayed also to other countries asking them to perhaps follow the same guidelines?
Jen Psaki: (10:40)
Well, we conveyed every country to abide by sanctions. And we’ve conveyed to a range of European countries, as you know and as we’ve talked about, that as they work to diversify their energy sources, that we are here to assist in those efforts. And there are a range of steps we’ve taken including efforts on LNG, I mean, that’s natural gas of course, but efforts on LNG and moving some resources from Asia and other places and ensuring that there are options to…
Jen Psaki: (11:03)
… from Asia and other places. And ensuring that there are options for any country that wants to, to diversify their energy sources.
Speaker 3: (11:08)
Okay. And one on the French elections.
Jen Psaki: (11:09)
Speaker 3: (11:10)
Are you watching the French elections coming up this Sunday, perhaps with any concerns, especially with the rise of Le Pen, who is a far right candidate running against Macron?
Jen Psaki: (11:21)
We are certainly watching the elections, but I don’t have any prediction of what the outcome will be. And once there is an outcome, I’m sure we will speak to it. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (11:29)
Understanding it’s a fluid situation, but the atrocity in Bucha serve as an accelerant towards the latest sanctions package, the coordination between [crosstalk 00:11:38].
Jen Psaki: (11:38)
That we announced two days ago?
Speaker 4: (11:39)
Jen Psaki: (11:40)
Speaker 4: (11:40)
Is there any sense that the strike that we saw this morning will also accelerate talks on additional sanctions between the coordinated allies?
Jen Psaki: (11:49)
Well, I would say, just to go back to a couple of days ago. That obviously, the sanctions package, we announced on Wednesdays with the biggest bank in Russia, Sberbank, certainly that was augmented as a result of the atrocities that we were seeing in Bucha.
Jen Psaki: (12:04)
And what we have done to date and we will continue to do is look at, unfortunately, the continued atrocities that we’re seeing in the country and assess how that’s going to impact sanctions, consequences, and obviously, additional security assistance. That’s how we’ve been evaluating and working with our allies to date.
Jen Psaki: (12:21)
And I’m certain, given the video footage we’ve seen on airwaves across the world and photos, that this will be a part of the discussion that our national security officials are having with their counterparts moving forward.
Speaker 4: (12:33)
Okay. On the S-300, it’s been fairly apparent for the last several weeks that that was a process that you guys were engaged. I know you are deliberately ambiguous as to some of the other processes that may be taking place. But is it fair to say that there are multiple other tracks that are similarly far down the line for other weapons systems? Or how can you characterize how far along you are compared to where you are now at the S-300 on other systems?
Jen Psaki: (13:02)
Well, one, I mean, part of our objective here and the S-300s are an example of that, is to see that we can get defensive equipment that Ukrainians are trained on, and that we know it can be effective, move to Ukraine. We are of course, grateful to Slovakia, and we work closely with Slovakia to also meet their defense needs.
Jen Psaki: (13:21)
And part of our considerations here, as we’re looking at the list of requests that the Ukrainians have is what do we have access to here in the United States? What military equipment do we have access to? There are systems we may not have access to, or we may not even have those systems. How can we work with countries around the world, like Slovakia to meet those needs?
Jen Psaki: (13:41)
There are a range of those conversations happening with our partners and allies at the same time. I will tell you that often it is the preference of these partners and allies not to be public about these conversations. And at times, it is the preference of the Ukrainians. And we certainly respect that.
Speaker 4: (13:58)
Okay. Just one final one, it’s been a pretty historic 24 hours for the history of the Supreme court, for the country. We’ve seen the president speak publicly. Can you talk about do you have any color in terms of what he’s been like behind the scenes? Delivering on a campaign pledge when the first African American woman on the court, how he’s been with staff, with the justice, all of that.
Jen Psaki: (14:13)
Sure. Oh, I’m going to try not to ugly cry about this day because which we were all doing on the South Lawn. Look, I was with the president before he went out. I was there on time. I didn’t run out as you would’ve seen. I was with him before, when he was doing his final review of his remarks. And what he was reflecting on is, and you saw some of this in his speech, were the number of people, whether it is people who work at the White House, people who are part of his every day, stewards or others who have commented to him how significant this moment is. And how in a place where you are just trying to make it through every day.
Jen Psaki: (14:53)
And every day is history in many ways. History can be heartbreaking. And many days it has been. History can be exhausting. And many days it has been. And history can be joyful. And today was a joyful day in history. And that is certainly how the president was. You saw his granddaughter, Naomi, who he talked about in the speech, come out. She was there also for a brief greet with Justice Jackson beforehand.
Jen Psaki: (15:20)
And he made an effort to also introduce the new associate justice to some members of his close staff who just were inspired by the significance of today as well. I would say there was a deep recognition of this moment of history, a joy in reaching it. And I think we’ve all been saying to each other in the hallways, “No one can steal our sunshine today,” because that’s how everybody is feeling.
Speaker 4: (15:47)
Jen Psaki: (15:47)
Speaker 5: (15:48)
Hey, Jen. To follow up on that, did the president spend any time with the Jackson family before the formal event or afterward [crosstalk 00:15:57]?
Jen Psaki: (15:56)
Well, I think as we confirmed, he signed her commission and her family was with her for that. It was briefly before he came out to do the remarks.
Speaker 5: (16:05)
Okay. Got it. And to follow up on a question from Katie earlier this week about other precautions that the president may or may not be taking. Do you know if he is taking any monoclonal antibodies to help prevent catching COVID?
Jen Psaki: (16:21)
Well, Evusheld is for immunocompromised. That would be the preemptive step. And he’s not immunocompromised, so he’s not taking Evusheld.
Speaker 5: (16:28)
Is he taking any other medication that might help?
Jen Psaki: (16:30)
Speaker 5: (16:32)
Well, I don’t actually know but that’s a great question. Other than the booster, we’ve heard other people taking other kinds of prophylactics to prevent it. Is he taking anything that you know of?
Jen Psaki: (16:46)
This is why I asked. There are not other. I mean Evusheld is obviously one that, if you’re immunocompromised, is something that has been approved and recommended. Since he does not categorize that way, he isn’t taking it. But other than that, the precautions we’re taking are, he obviously got the booster when he was eligible last week. And we take additional steps, including testing, socially distance meetings when possible as well in order to protect him as much as possible.
Speaker 5: (17:13)
Thank you. And then just one more on something that Samantha Power shared.
Jen Psaki: (17:15)
Speaker 5: (17:15)
She said that Russian forces have killed at least seven journalists in Ukraine in six weeks. And that Putin soldiers are killing journalists at an unprecedented rate. Is there any intelligence, any information that Putin is targeting journalists. And do you have any warning that you’re sharing with American journalists covering the war?
Jen Psaki: (17:38)
Well, one, we value the role that American journalists and journalists from around the world. That felt like a direction somewhere, have played in bringing to light for a lot of people in this country, this war, what’s happening, the devastation, the horrors. It has had a direct impact on people’s emotional response in the United States. There’s no question about that.
Jen Psaki: (18:06)
We recognize the war of journalists in war zones, of course, and value it. And as you all know, we also work very closely with leaders of news organizations to ensure that they have up-to-date information to keep members of their media organization safe. It is still a war zone, an active war zone. And we’re still conveying that Americans should not be there, including journalists.
Jen Psaki: (18:26)
In terms of specific targeting, we knew from the beginning, and we have talked publicly about this, of course, that President Putin and the Russian military was intending to target, or could target civilians and others, including journals could be part of that. But I don’t have any new intelligence or anything beyond that.
Speaker 5: (18:45)
Jen Psaki: (18:45)
Thanks, Jen. Is there a carve out in CDC regulations for COVID for vice president?
Jen Psaki: (18:54)
Tell me more, Peter. I’m sure this is going somewhere. Let’s see.
Well, you know, [crosstalk 00:18:58].
Jen Psaki: (18:58)
What do you got from me on a Friday?
The CDC says for people exposed to COVID, up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, do not go to places where you are unable to wear a well-fitting mask. Why is she here at the White House today found, giving the new Supreme Court justice a big hug with no mask?
Jen Psaki: (19:17)
You mean when she gave her a hug outside?
Jen Psaki: (19:19)
She was outside.
Does the CDC say the people who are close contact can give people hugs outside?
Jen Psaki: (19:24)
We know, Peter, that outside, you can benefit significantly being outside, that’s why we had the event outside today. I will tell you that the vice president has been wearing a mask inside when there was a private greet. They were all wearing masks before they went up.
[crosstalk 00:19:42] she was wearing a mask yesterday at the Senate.
Jen Psaki: (19:44)
She was playing an important role in confirming or overseeing the confirmation of the first black woman at the Supreme Court. The vast majority, as was on camera, Peter. [crosstalk 00:19:55] As was on camera. Let me finish my answer here because Fox and other, I don’t know actually that Fox carried it. But others did, saw that she was socially distanced from people for the vast, vast majority of her time, overseeing that confirmation yesterday.
This is not a case of rules for thee, but not for VP?
Jen Psaki: (20:13)
In fact, the vice president wore a mask inside today. When she was both with the president and with her staff. Other people, she was outside at the event, she was socially distanced for 99.9% of the event today. And she had an emotional moment, as which is understandable.
Okay. And one other topic. Following up on the smartphones that are being given to border crossers with technology so they can be tracked or so they can check in. Is there any plan to give free smartphones to US citizens that want them?
Jen Psaki: (20:45)
Should we not be tracking migrants who irregularly cross the border?
I’m asking if [crosstalk 00:20:52].
Jen Psaki: (20:52)
Or do you have an alternative suggestion for how they should be tracked?
I unfortunately have not been asked to make US immigration policy. That’s not my-
Jen Psaki: (21:00)
Today’s your moment.
Well, it’d be great if anybody that wanted a free phone and a free monthly plan could get one. Is that going to be an offer for everybody or just people that walk into the country illegally?
Jen Psaki: (21:11)
Well, Peter, as when we talked about this the other day, what I noted to you is that we have a range of means of tracking individuals who irregularly migrate to the country, in order to ensure that they are meeting their notice to appear obligations. And that they are appearing in court when they should appear in court.
Jen Psaki: (21:29)
Phones is one of them. There are also ankle devices and a range of tracking devices. 80% of non-citizens released at the border from DHS custody under prosecutorial discretion have either received a notice to appear or are still within the window to report.
Jen Psaki: (21:45)
Yes, there’s telephonic reporting. There is SmartLink, which enables participant monitoring via smartphone. There’s the global positioning system. These are the range of means with modern technology that we monitor.
Last one on this does. The president have any plans to figure out what these small towns were bracing for a major influx in migrant-
Speaker 6: (22:03)
… small towns who are bracing for a major influx in migrants next month need, by making his first ever trip to the border?
Jen Psaki: (22:09)
I have nothing to predict for you in terms of additional trips. The President will be traveling the country, but I don’t have any more specifics for you at this point.
Speaker 8: (22:17)
Just for clarification, earlier you guys told us via pool that the President was tested negative. That was today, for clarity?
Jen Psaki: (22:22)
Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Speaker 8: (22:23)
Okay. So the cadence has clearly changed, right? We knew there was one on Wednesday, he was negative. Today’s Friday, he tested negative. Just for keeping track of it, is it now three times a week, two times a week? Is there a way to [crosstalk 00:22:32]
Jen Psaki: (22:31)
His doctor makes an assessment on how many times he should be tested and we do our best to provide that information to you as he’s tested.
Speaker 8: (22:37)
And aside for the time he spent with Ketanji Brown Jackson and her family, because there’s precedent to this, there was no indoor reception, indoor ceremony, that existed of some kind the cameras didn’t see?
Jen Psaki: (22:46)
Speaker 8: (22:47)
… before. Okay. Let me, if I can, during his remarks today, the President said something that was a bit striking. He was condemning some of the conservative Republicans and their criticism of Judge Jackson when she was testifying recently. He said, “There was verbal abuse, the anger, the constant interruptions, those vile, baseless, vile assertions and accusations.” Is that a preview of messaging that we’re going to hear from the President heading into the midterms? Is that a message that the White House wants to deliver and will be repeating?
Jen Psaki: (23:12)
I don’t believe that the conduct of senators at a hearing is going to be central to the President’s remarks when he is out traveling the country. But I think what he was speaking to on a historic day is that while Judge Jackson, now Justice Jackson, was the picture of dignity in her hearings, some others in the room decided to be the opposite. And he is somebody who has more experience overseeing Supreme Court hearings than anyone living. He has overseen them during Republican and Democratic presidents and expects a certain level of conduct, professionalism and decorum. And that is not what we saw. [crosstalk 00:23:51]
Speaker 8: (23:50)
… one-off for today, as opposed to a central theme that we’ll see in terms of contrast?
Jen Psaki: (23:55)
I would say that I think the American people can expect that he’ll continue to talk when he’s out in the country, for whatever reason, about how to bring down their costs, how to make sure that he is fighting for them and bringing them relief, and how he’s going to get the COVID pandemic under control, less about the conduct of senators at a hearing.
Speaker 8: (24:14)
Let me ask a very quick question then on cost, if I can. Right now the cost of gas in this country on average is $4.14. Does the White House want a gas tax holiday?
Jen Psaki: (24:24)
It is certainly on the table and certainly something we continue to consider. We have seen a number of states do that. And while it can have an impact, about 18 cents, I believe, if I remember correctly, one of the reasons why we’re considering it, our primary focus to date, as you all know, has been taking steps to increase supply and get more supply into the global marketplace. But it remains an option under consideration. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (24:50)
The UN today put out a report saying that global food prices in March reached a record high. What is the US doing, if anything, to mitigate possible additional increases here?
Jen Psaki: (25:02)
Here in the United States?
Speaker 7: (25:05)
Jen Psaki: (25:05)
Well, it is something that we are certainly watching very closely, while we continue to believe that the impact will largely be in the Middle East and in Africa, I believe, in a lot of other parts of the world, less in the United States. We are continuing to work, our Department of Agriculture is continuing to work with farmers and suppliers about any needs we have here. And the President is continuing to work to bring down costs in a range of areas for the American people as we prepare for the impacts of this war.
Speaker 7: (25:30)
It was pretty widely reported yesterday, prior to her COVID diagnosis, that Speaker Pelosi was planning a trip to Taiwan. Beijing reacted very negatively to that. Is the US, is the Biden administration comfortable if she were to do that, such a high-ranking US official?
Jen Psaki: (25:47)
I think we understood her trip. I don’t have any further comments on it. Go ahead.
Speaker 9: (25:51)
Thanks, Jen. Two questions for you. The first, today my colleagues in the UK reported that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, had a US green card, which he surrendered this past October. He’s been an MP since 2015 and USCIS Manual says that serving in a foreign government or standing for election in a foreign government is not compatible with lawful permanent resident status. Why was this not flagged earlier?
Jen Psaki: (26:21)
I would point you to the State Department or the Department of Homeland Security. I don’t have any more comment from here.
Speaker 9: (26:26)
I mean, is it a problem? Does the President see as a problem that it’s possible for someone to serve at a high level in a foreign government and maintain lawful permanent resident status in the US? I mean, what if this was someone who was serving in the Russian Duma?
Jen Psaki: (26:43)
It wasn’t. But I would also, again, point you to the portions of the government that oversee green cards and oversee the status of documents. I’m happy to bump it for them as well and see if there’s more we can provide to you. [crosstalk 00:26:58]
Speaker 9: (26:58)
… question. There’s a death row inmate in Texas, Melissa Lucio, she’s set to be executed soon. Many experts believe her confession was coerced and is false. She has bipartisan support for clemency, and support from the EU and many other foreign allies. Would the President consider asking Governor Abbott to intervene?
Jen Psaki: (27:21)
Well, you know the President’s position and view on the death penalty, and there’s an ongoing review at the Department of Justice at a federal level. This is obviously at a state level. I don’t have anything to predict on that.
Speaker 9: (27:31)
And to follow up, given his commitment to police reform, would he consider asking the DOJ to prohibit police departments that receive federal funds from using the Reid technique for interrogations? It’s considered to create a lot of false confessions.
Jen Psaki: (27:47)
Well, again, I know the Department of Justice has taken a number of steps, including on choke holds and other actions that needed to be reformed in police departments across the country. I don’t have anything to preview or predict in terms of additional steps. The President supports their efforts to do more. Many of them have talked about their desire to do more. And obviously, we are continuing to consider an executive order on police reform here, given there has been an inability of Congress to move forward. Go ahead.
Speaker 10: (28:11)
Thanks, Jen. There are some pretty desperate images coming out of Shanghai right now, which is under lockdown for COVID, to people begging for food and medicine. Is the White House monitoring that? Is there anything the US can do to help the humanitarian situation there? And also, on the supply chain front, is the administration aware of any further supply chain snags coming as a result of this, and how are you prepared to address them?
Jen Psaki: (28:34)
Sure. Well, first, on the first part of your question, the State Department is closely monitoring the situation. They are providing consistent updates of the situation on the ground and will certainly assess with USAID and others if there’s additional assistance that could be provided. On the supply chain component, what we know is that the port is continuing to operate normally, and where we’re seeing the impacts, which still could have an impact over the course of time, of course, is factories, warehouses, and trucking, where we are seeing shutdowns within the region, which we know could cause delays, especially for air cargo as well. Because this is just happening, we don’t have a prediction at this point on how that could impact bigger global supply chain issues. It depends on a lot of factors; how long, et cetera, but it is something we are closely monitoring and it is something we will continue to work to address if it extends farther.
Speaker 10: (29:32)
And just one more housekeeping item, do you have a timing update on when the President might sign the Trade Preference bill on Russia, [crosstalk 00:29:39]
Jen Psaki: (29:39)
I don’t, and I know you and others have been looking for this, and let me see if I can get an answer before we all wrap up today. Go ahead.
Speaker 11: (29:45)
Jen, could you speak to the efficacy of sanctions? I know there was a new sanctions package rolled out this week, and initially we heard a lot from administration officials about this being a deterrent. I know that has changed, and so can you speak to the end goal and what is the efficacy of sanctions?
Jen Psaki: (29:59)
Well, I would say that we have a couple of objectives at this point, as it relates to the war in Ukraine. One is to impose severe consequences, send a marker for the world and for history about the horrific nature of these atrocities, these consequences. And the second part of our objective is to ensure that these consequences are having a significant impact on the economy in Russia. We’re seeing an inflationary rate of about 15%, a projection of a contraction of 15% in the Russian economy. 600 private sector companies have left Russia.
Jen Psaki: (30:38)
We know it is having the impact that the world intended. This is the most significant coordinated set of sanctions ever done in history on this large of an economy. The third objective here is to make it much more difficult for President Putin to fund his war. And if you look back, say, earlier this week at the example of the bond payments and how Russia has basically been put in a place where they either have to use their limited resources they have, that are also being used to fund the war, to prevent a default, or default.
Jen Psaki: (31:13)
That is the position they’re in at this point in time. But also because we’ve cut them off through export controls and a number of other means from having access to materials and technology, but also access to funds, it makes it more difficult for them to fund the war. That is part of it. And the last objective is to continue to make it clear that this is a strategic blunder, their decision to invade Ukraine, and one that will make President Putin a pariah in the world. So those are why and what we are hoping to achieve.
Speaker 11: (31:45)
Can I ask one follow up? Is there anything being done in terms of either monitoring or actually just, I guess, monitoring, to take a look at the effects of sanctions on ordinary Russians, or anything that the administration’s thinking to just deal with that population of people who are affected?
Jen Psaki: (31:59)
The Russian people, you mean?
Speaker 11: (32:01)
Jen Psaki: (32:01)
Certainly we are looking at how this is impacting the Russian economy writ large, and it is certainly, as inflation is going up and as the economy is contracting, that means prices will go up and we do know there will be a broad impact. That is the fault of President Putin and the fault of President Putin invading a sovereign country. So it is important also for the Russian people to know and understand that. And we have been working through a range of means to communicate about the realities of the war and the facts of the war through Telegram, through YouTube, through a range of channels as well. Go ahead.
Speaker 12: (32:35)
Thanks, Jen. General Milley earlier this week talked about the possibility of building permanent US bases on NATO’s Eastern flank. I wonder what seriousness the White House has given that, or you look long term at the war in Ukraine, whether shoring up the Eastern flank with permanent bases is something that’s being considered.
Jen Psaki: (32:53)
There’ll continue to be a range of discussions, but I have nothing beyond what General Milley said.
Speaker 12: (32:58)
Can I ask one more question? I wanted to go a little deeper on the French elections.
Jen Psaki: (33:01)
Speaker 12: (33:01)
Does the White House worry that-
Speaker 13: (33:03)
… Or on the French elections.
Jen Psaki: (33:03)
Speaker 13: (33:03)
Does the White House worry that the election of Lahan could destabilize the NATO Alliance or make it difficult, being that she’s come out with her pro-Russian statements?
Jen Psaki: (33:12)
Well, I’m just not going to get ahead of an election in a foreign country and obviously we will watch it closely and I’m sure we’ll have more to speak to once the of results are concluded. Go ahead.
Speaker 14: (33:21)
Speaker 14: (33:23)
What can you tell us about the multiple secret service agents who have been suspended or removed from the president, vice president, and first ladies, detail pending this investigation of two men impersonating officers, law enforcement?
Jen Psaki: (33:40)
Not much from here. I can point you to the secret service and obviously the FBI is overseeing the investigation.
Speaker 14: (33:46)
Is there a broader concern in the administration that these principles… Is there concern that they’re not being protected effectively? Can you speak at all to that?
Jen Psaki: (33:57)
As I said yesterday, the president remains confident in the leader of the secret service and beyond that, I would point you to the secret service and to the FBI.
Speaker 14: (34:05)
Then I guess just on the invitations you issued to Republicans who voted to confirm Justice Jackson. I know one of them has COVID, but did you hear from the other two Senator Murkowski and Romney? I know the president went a little further to talk about Senator Romney’s father today at his speech. Did the White House hear from the Republicans who were invited today? Why didn’t they come?
Jen Psaki: (34:28)
I would point you to their offices to speak to that. I mean, it doesn’t change the president’s gratitude to them for bucking the trend in their party of not supporting an eminently qualified nominee and they did that and it was something he wanted to call out today and express his gratitude.
Speaker 14: (34:48)
Speaker 15: (34:48)
Yeah. Thank you, Jen. I’m wondering what the White House’s reaction is to yesterday’s U.N. vote to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. The fact that there were 58 nations that abstained from taking a vote and that, on top of the other of 24 nations that voted against it. Although there was more, obviously the majority of countries did vote to suspend Russia.
Speaker 15: (35:10)
Do you think that many abstentions, that many people sitting on the sidelines, so this shows that the entire world really isn’t unified around condemning these actions by Russia?
Jen Psaki: (35:24)
Well, a win required, two-thirds present in voting, and that is exactly what happened and far beyond that. We know that there were abstentions and only 24 countries, including North Korea, voted with Russia. But the outcome, which is what is most important to us, is what we wanted, which Russia has been suspended from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Jen Psaki: (35:47)
Suspension, just so everybody does… Somebody asked me this question the other day, but is the only method provided for in the U.N. Resolution that established the Human Rights Council back in 2005 it’s the most serious action available. It’s only been applied once in history. This is only the second time in history that a country has been kicked out of the U.N. Human Rights Council. The last example was Libya, so that obviously speaks to the significance. It also speaks to the fact that the two-thirds, more than two-thirds of countries who are members, believe they should not have a leadership role on global human rights as they work to subvert and violate global human rights.
Jen Psaki: (36:25)
This also means that once suspended, Russia will not be able to vote against future actions during subsequent Human Rights Council sessions. And so to us, it is significant only the second time in history and it speaks to of global outrage in response to these atrocities.
Speaker 15: (36:42)
Are there any concerns that nearly 60 nations decided not to weigh in on this matter?
Jen Psaki: (36:47)
Again, our focus is on the fact that it was a win, for only the second time in history was a country kicked out of, suspended, from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Speaker 15: (36:55)
One other question. Does President Biden still intend to attend the White House Correspondence Association dinner here later this month in a couple weeks?
Jen Psaki: (37:04)
We haven’t announced his plans to attend or anything about his schedule, so I don’t have any update on that today.
Speaker 15: (37:10)
Jen Psaki: (37:10)
Speaker 16: (37:11)
Thanks, Jen. Just some follow up of things that came up.
Jen Psaki: (37:12)
Speaker 16: (37:13)
To follow up on Peter’s question about the testing cadence. You guys told us about negative tests on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Should we expect the president would get tested on Sunday? Two days later?
Jen Psaki: (37:22)
I would say. I don’t have a prediction of that. His doctor makes an assessment of when he should be tested and how often and what the cadence should be. It’s not always exactly the same but we will provide information to you when he tests negative, or either way, of course,
Speaker 16: (37:36)
Yes. And to follow up on Katie’s question, did the president talk to any of the senators, Romney, Murkowski and Collins, after their vote yesterday on Ketanji Brown Jackson?
Jen Psaki: (37:46)
I don’t have any update on that from here.
Speaker 16: (37:47)
Okay. when he said he hoped he didn’t get them in trouble today, when he referenced them, what did he mean by that?
Jen Psaki: (37:53)
I think he meant, he recognizes that the vast majority of the other members of their party voted a different way. Go ahead.
Speaker 17: (38:01)
Thank you. On India, next week, Secretary of State Blinken and Defense Secretary are hosting the Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, for the first India-US, two-plus-two dialogue under this administration.
Speaker 17: (38:15)
What is president’s message to the meeting? What is expectations in sending any concrete ideas to this meeting as well?
Jen Psaki: (38:23)
President Biden believes our partnership with India is one of the most important relationships we have in the world. As you know, he met with President… Prime Minister Modi an other Quad Leaders in March. He expects that at this two-plus-two, Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin, will continue driving forward our work with India and our shared goals in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.
Jen Psaki: (38:43)
We also believe both sides will continue our close consultations on the consequences of President Putin’s brutal war against Ukraine, in mitigating the impact by addressing energy and food prices. Obviously it could cover a range of topics, so we expect that to be a central one.
Speaker 17: (38:56)
And secondly, given the US frustrating experience, having the U.N. Security Council where one country are coming out and doing all the issues, Ukraine. What is president’s thoughts on the reforms and the U.N. Security Council itself?
Jen Psaki: (39:11)
Well, I know a question has been asked about whether Russia could be kicked out of being a permanent member. We don’t anticipate that happening, but obviously the step taken yesterday to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council, is an indication of the global response and horror at the atrocities we’ve seen happen on the ground in Ukraine but beyond that, I don’t have any other predictions of reforms.
Speaker 17: (39:35)
Should there be individual veto or group veto inside the security?
Jen Psaki: (39:39)
Again, I understand your questions but I don’t have any predictions or calls for that at this point. Go ahead.
Jen Psaki: (39:43)
Okay. We’ll just do a few more. Go ahead.
Speaker 18: (39:45)
Thanks, Jen. Since his State of the Union Address, the president has only made a handful of domestic trips. We’ve talked in here before, about how he’s liked to get back into the community and have a chance to interact with American people. Is the current COVID way getting in the way of his travel plans?
Jen Psaki: (40:01)
No. I expect he’s going to travel a bunch in the next few weeks.
Speaker 18: (40:04)
Okay. You had mentioned that you will be going to North Carolina and you didn’t have too much more to add on that, but might the president, while he’s in Greensboro, be visiting one of the areas to historically black colleges and universities.
Jen Psaki: (40:16)
I don’t have more details at this point in time. As they get finalized, I’m sure we’ll share them with all of you.
Jen Psaki: (40:22)
Speaker 19: (40:23)
Thanks, Jen. I have a two part question on student loans.
Jen Psaki: (40:25)
Speaker 19: (40:26)
Last year, President Biden directed the Department of Education to create a report on whether he has presidential authority to unilaterally do a broad cancellation of debt. I don’t believe that’s ever been made public and as you’re looking at loan extensions, or loan pause extensions, can we anticipate seeing a release of that report?
Speaker 19: (40:46)
Secondly, as you’ve talked about how the president wants to lower cost for Americans, borrowers have expressed stress, anxiety about these short term extensions. What’s your message to them?
Jen Psaki: (40:57)
I think our message to them is that not a single person has paid a dime on their student loans since the president took office and he’s continued to evaluate and assess, with the Department of Education and other policy makers in the administration, what the needs are to lower costs for people, including people who have student loans and do feel stressed, even as the economy is continuing to recover, but as we see costs too high in some areas.
Jen Psaki: (41:21)
On the first question, I don’t have any update on that. I would tell you that if Congress were to send him a bill to cancels $10,000 in student loans, in student debt, he’d be happy to sign it.
Jen Psaki: (41:32)
Go ahead. Last one. Last one. Last one. Go ahead.
Speaker 20: (41:34)
Thank you. Well, Rachel Wallace, who was the general counsel of the science office, who the White House had been bullied by Dr. Lander, has been told that she will not be getting her job back as general counsel. Why?
Jen Psaki: (41:46)
I’m not aware of this personnel update. I’d have to check on it. I’m happy to do that and we will get you back a comment.
Speaker 20: (41:53)
Right. Then a follow-up. Yesterday, you said when asked about Vice President Harris’s and the mask at the Senate, you said that she would follow CDC protocols at the event today. CDC protocols clearly say you should be wearing a mask. It doesn’t distinguish between outside and inside, so why didn’t she wear a mask?
Jen Psaki: (42:10)
She was socially distanced for the vast majority of the event today.
Speaker 20: (42:13)
She was sitting, standing next to the president.
Jen Psaki: (42:15)
About six feet away.
Jen Psaki: (42:16)
Speaker 21: (42:17)
Jen Psaki: (42:19)
Thank you everyone.