James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:16 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It smells lovely in here.
Good afternoon, everybody.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It does. It smells like, I don't know, potpourri or something. It smells lovely.
Welcome back to those who traveled with us out west. It was a really great trip. Three - three days of wonderful activities.
Okay. So, tomorrow is one of the President's favorite holidays and many of my colleagues' as well, as I've been hearing all day long. And so, it's St. Patrick's Day, as you guys know.
And it's also, fun fact, my mom's birthday tomorrow. So -
Q Aww -
Q Wish her a happy birthday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. That's what I was about to do. I know she's watching, so you guys have to behave. My mom is watching. Happy birthday, Mom.
So, President Biden will host Leo Varadak- - Varadkar - sorry - Varadkar, Taoiseach of Ireland, here at the White House for a bilateral meeting and St. Patrick's Day celebration, continuing a longstanding St. Patrick's Day tradition here at the White House.
To kick off the celebrations, Taoiseach and his partner, Mr.
Bennett [Barrett], will join Vice President Harris and the Second Gentleman for breakfast at the Naval Observatory, where they will be serving Eggs St. Patrick's, of course. Apparently, that's a thing. It's going to be exciting.
Later tomorrow morning, the President will meet with Taoiseach for a bilateral meeting.
In the afternoon, the President and Taoiseach will go to the Capitol for the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon.
And in the evening, the President and Taoiseach will return to the White House for the St. Patrick's Day Shamrock Presentation ceremony and reception, including a special performance from Ireland's own Niall Horan.
Niall is a multi-platinum-selling singer/songwriter who has toured the globe, including with One Direction. Going to keep my comments to myself on One Direction. I don't know who they are. Sorry. (Laughter.) Many of you, I'm sure, do.
Q They gave the world Harry, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. (Laughs.)
AIDE: And Niall.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Um, okay. But I know a few members of my team are truly excited about that, especially Allyson. You guys all know Allyson, one of our wranglers. She's been thrilled this past couple of days.
So, and all - anyway, St. Patrick's Day, we're all excited to be celebrating that tomorrow here at the Biden White House. And so, I'm sure you guys will all be celebrating with us and the rest of the country.
But today I have very sad news - a goodbye to one of our day ones, one of our OGs, members of our team, Kevin Munoz, who's sitting right here. Many of you know him. He was here day one, obviously - day one-ers - of this administration. And since Kevin joined the Biden world in 2019 for the campaign, he has affectionately been known as our "Florida man" for his knowledge of all things Florida. If you have any questions about Florida, Kevin is your guy. That is his home state, of course.
And Dr. Munoz. And we - we affectionally call him "Dr. Munoz" for his leadership during the early days when we were still in the throes of the COVID pandemic, and Kevin took that on without complaint and with clear brilliance and really led us through that path of - of what was happening very early on in the administration.
And - and as you know - and again, just to add, he embedded himself into the - into the core team of the White House Response Team on COVID and with their str- - strategic decisions and how to move forward on COVID-19. And Kevin has just been, again, brilliant and fantastic in that role.
Those were difficult days, as you all know, working around the clock, and Kevin was exactly the right person for the job. He thrives in the pressure cooker, and has been a strategic and effective communicator on some of the most complex and critical issues we have faced as a country.
Kevin has also been an important spokesperson for us - for us on issues of deep importance to the Latino community, and also LGBTQ Americans. And he has helped reach Spanish-speaking Americans across the country as a strong and effective bilingual communicator.
Kevin is wicked, wicked smart and has a huge heart. He cares about all of these issues, and he cares about his colleagues. And he certainly cares about the work that we have been doing here these last two years, and we will miss him dearly. And - but he won't go far.
And also, his birthday was yesterday. So happy birthday, Kevin.
But we love you, and we will miss you. And thank you so much for your dedication and for your service.
With that, Darlene.
Q Thank you. Two questions on banking. So, the Treasury Secretary was on the Hill this morning testifying that the system remains sound and people can be confident about their deposits. When the President addressed the situation on Monday, he said that he was "going to ask Congress and the banking regulators to strengthen the rules for banks" to make sure that this type of failure is less likely happen in the future.
At this point, can you be a little more specific in terms of precisely what the President is looking for from Congress and the banking regulators on this issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, to answer the sec- - the first question, I guess: We have seen bipartisan support on a piece of legislation - the
Warner [Warren]-Porter bill. And so we appreciate those folks putting their ideas together and putting that on the table. So we're going to work closely at that bill and other regulatory changes as well.
As you all know, the Obama-Biden administration put in place tough requirements after the 2008 financial crisis to make sure that this sort of crisis would not happen again.
But unfortunately, in the last administration, in 2018, some of those rolled back some of - some of those regulations that would have been incredibly important as we move forward. So as the President said, Congress and regulators must strengthen those rules for larger banks so that this doesn't happen again.
And so, again, there's the legislation that we are encouraged to see. And - and we'll, you know, continue to work with Congress on what else - what else can be done.
And - but, as we know, we can't - there's quite a bit that we can do administratively. But without Congress, there's not - without Congress, we can't fully deal with this issue.
So, as - your question on the regulators - you know, already underway, the regulators at - that the President appointed over the last few years, reversing the changes that we saw in two thous- - 2018, under the last administration, as I just mentioned. But that - again, but we need Congress to take - we can't let Congress off the hook, and they need to take action.
So, it's going to take both the Congress and regulators to strengthen those rules, and so that's what we're calling on to do.
Q And secondly, there are reports that a group of banks and other financial institutions are working on a $30 billion or so plan to shore up First Republic Bank in California. Can you say what role the U.S. government has in terms of trying to pull this rec- - rescue package together?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm not going to comment on any specific actions or any specific institutions from here.
Because of the actions that the - that the regulators took over the weekend at the President's direction, depositors know that they are safe and - and banks have access to resources to meet those - to meet those depositors' needs but - and demand, but I'm not going to get into any specific situations from here.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Mary.
Q A question on TikTok. Over 100 million people now use this app. What is your message to them about why you're so concerned about this platform? What is the President's greatest fear about TikTok?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we've talked about this many times from here before. The President has spoken about this. Look, we are - want to make sure that our administration -
(A cellphone disrupts the briefing.)
Okay? We're okay over there?
Q Just indigestion. (Laughter.)
Q (Inaudible) TikTok.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, budget TikTok. (Laughter.) Smart.
Okay. So, look, we've expressed concerns over China's potential use of software platforms that could endanger or threaten America's safety and their national security. So that is the President's concern. That is why we have called on Congress to take action.
We see a bipartisan piece of legislation that you know that we are supporting. It's called the RESTRICT Act, as you all know and have been covering. And so, that's the President's main priority: to make sure when it comes to their safety, when it comes to their security, when it comes to our national security, that those things are protected.
And so, that has been the President's focus over the last couple of years.
Q You know, last month, the President said he wasn't sure if the U.S. should ban TikTok when he was asked about this. Now the administration seems to be hardening its stance. You're backing this legislation, as you mentioned. You know, we've learned - now warning that a possible ban could be at risk here. What changed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, when it comes to CFIUS, which is - I'm not going to get ahead of CFIUS. They're the ones who are reviewing this, reviewing this particular software and app - TikTok, obviously.
So, not going to get ahead of their process. There's a process here. We try to stay away from that process.
Again, going to support the bipartisan legislation that I've just spoke to.
Look, the bottom line is that when it comes to potential threats to our national security, when it comes to the safety of Americans, when it comes to their privacy, we're going to speak out. And we're going to be very clear about that, and the President has been the last two years.
And so, we're asking Congress to act. We're asking Congress to move forward with this bipartisan legislation - the RESTRICT Act, as I just mentioned - and we're going to continue to do so.
Q And just one more on this. You know, China says that the U.S. hasn't presented evidence that this app threatens U.S. national security. They say that this is simply about suppressing foreign companies. Is there evidence that the U.S. has that has been presented?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, what I can say is: CFIUS has a process that they're going through. We're going to let them go through their process. We have concerns, as we've said many times before, about this particular software so- - platform - software platforms.
And - and so we take the national security very seriously, the President takes that very seriously - the safety of Americans very seriously, the privacy of Americans very seriously. And so, we're not going to get ahead of the review.
But, certainly, we, again, support this bipartisan legislation that we're coming - that we're seeing out of - out of Congress.
Q Just continuing on the questions about the banking sector. So the Biden administration has expressed a lot of concern in the past about consolidation in other sectors. You've spoken about meatpacking, shipping, ocean shipping, oil companies. Are you worried that this crisis surrounding several regional banks could lead to a consolidation, a concentration in the larger banking sector?
And - and then I'll have another one.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, promoting competition in our - in the American economy, we see that as a priority. You se- - you hear the President say these words I'm about to repeat right now, which is, "Capitalism without competition isn't capitalism." And so, that is something that you've heard the President say multiple times.
His executive order on this particular issue, promoting capita- - capitalism - sorry, competition - pardon me - specifically encourages the Justice Department - in consultation with the Fed, the FDIC, and Comptroller of the Currency - to revitalize merger and oversight.
So, again, this is something that the President believes in. He - he believes that we have to have capitalism and you can't have capitalism without competition. And that isn't capitalism. And so, I'll just leave it there.
And it isn't - again, the last thing I would say is: It's an important part of our American economy.
Q But, I mean, the question is: Are you concerned, and what can you do about it? You know, to ev- - as - as consumers are now making decisions, having seen what happened with SVB and with Signature, what's happening now with First Republic, you know, what tools do you have to push back against a further concentration in this critical sector?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as it relates to specific banks and institutions, you know, I would - I would - I would refer you to the relevant banking regulators. So I'd leave that there.
And that's why the President - but, more broadly, that's why the President took the actions that he did over the weekend. Remember, he directed his Treasury Secretary and the NSC director to come up with a plan on how to deal with what we were seeing with SVB, with the Silicon Valley Bank. And so, they took action.
And now, what we - what we believe and what you heard from the Secretary today, which is decisive and forceful actions were taken by the government to strengthen public confidence in our banking system. So, there sho- - there should be confidence in our banking system. No taxpayer money is being used or put at risk with this action.
And lastly, she said our banking system remained sound and that Americans can feel confident that their deposits will be there when they need them. This is - this week's actions demonstrate our resolute commitment to ensure that depositors savings remain safe.
Again, this is something that happened and occurred at the President's direction. And we want to make sure that Americans do indeed feel confident.
I'm not going to speak to any specific bank, as you just asked me about the particular bank in California. We, clearly, are going to be monitoring.
Q Okay. And then just on the international front of the banking sector. You know, we've seen trouble now with Credit Suisse. The Swiss authorities are stepping in, offering credit line. What had been discussed there was also a further consolidation. So, the biggest bank in Switzerland, UBS, stepping in to aid Credit Suisse.
You know, would you have concerns about that on a global scale if you start to see this movement, you know, kind of happening globally?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we're monitoring the situation. I know the Treasury has been in touch with their own Swiss - their Swiss counterparts, which is important. And so, we're glad that the Swiss - Swiss central bank provided reassurance in the form of a loan facility yesterday.
But I will say that what we're seeing currently with the Credit Suisse is a distinct issue. And it's a problem - and its - and its problems are not related to the current economic situation, the current economic environment.
Again, this is a distinct issue that we're currently seeing, and we're having this - the Treasury Secretary is - the Treasury, I should say, more broadly, is having conversations with their counter- - counterparts.
Q And sorry to belabor the point, I just want - want to see what the Biden administration's policy on this is. Do you discourage further consolidation in banking globally or in the U.S.?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer - I would refer you to the Department of Treasury. They have been in - in close contact with their Swiss counterparts, as it relates to this particular issue, this particular bank.
But, again, I want to be very clear: What we're seeing with the Credit Suisse is a distinct situation. It is not - it is not - it does not speak to the current economics - economic environment that we're in.
Q Thanks, Karine. You - you referenced the Dodd-Frank rules just a few moments ago. Do you believe that Silicon Valley - (clears throat) - excuse me. Do you believe that Silicon Valley Bank's failure could have been averted had those Dodd-Frank rules not been rolled back during the previous administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, right now - and the President said this in his remarks on Monday, that we - we got to get a full accounting of what happened. We need to know exactly what happened so we know who to hold accountable here.
Right now, his economic team - the President's economic team is focused on stabilizing the financial system and protecting depositors, not investors. We've been very clear about this.
But again, it is not 2008. The banking system is far more resilient, on a better foundation, thanks to the tough requirements that were put in place by the Obama-Biden administration. And I just said this moment - moments ago: In 2018, we saw what the Trump administration did. They did roll back some of those tough requirements.
But again, we need to see exactly - do a full - full review, get a full accounting of what occurred so we can make sure to hold those to account.
Q And the administration moved to ensure all deposits at Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank through the FDIC's Deposit Insurance Fund. So, will that be the policy going forward for other bank failures?
And in terms of future legislation, does the administration support changes to the existing $250,000 cap on FDIC insurance limit for checkings and savings accounts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, I'm not going to get ahead or get into hypotheticals on what - what the future is going to hold.
And - and I said this moments ago as well, which is: Look, we need Congress to act, and we need Congress to take a look of what else can be done. That's why we're supporting the legislation - the bipartisan legislation that I just mentioned.
Look, the President - as I mentioned also earlier, the President appointed - appointed regulators over the past two years to reverse the changes that we saw in the last administration. But, again, Congress needs to act.
As far as the $250,000 deposit insurance limit, we have - we have more - more to say on the specific regulatory changes in the next few days. I'm not going to get ahead of - of what the regular- - the regulators are going to decide moving forward.
Q But that's something that you guys are looking at?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just not - I'm just not going to get into specifics or get ahead of what they're - what they're currently looking at or what we're going - what they're going to be announcing.
Q And then, just on a different topic. In terms of the video that you guys released of this U.S. drone that was intercepted by a Russian fighter jet, can you tell us if the President was involved in the decision to release that footage and why he or the administration felt it was important to get that out to the public?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this is something that, I believe, the Pentagon believed it was important to get that out so that the public can see.
I don't have any - I don't have any internal conversations to read out about - about how it came to be. I know that there is - you know, there's - many times during this mi- - this administration where we feel it's important to have transparency and to show the American people exactly what occurred. Just don't have any internal conversations to lay out for you at this time.
Q Yeah, thank you, Karine. What is the White House's reaction to environmental activists critical of the Biden administration's approval of the Willow oil project? They argue that the President has undermined his own goals on climate change in approving this.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things there. Look, the President - you know, when it comes to - you're talking about the Willow project?
Q Yeah, the Willow oil project.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President kept his word when he - when he can - where he can by law. Right? That is important to note.
And as the Interior Department said, some of the company's leases are decades old, granted by prior administrations. The company has a legal right to those leases. The department's options are limited when there are legal contracts in place.
For example, the DOI's Solicitor under President Clinton and law professor at
US [UC] Hastings said, "They have lease rights, and that can't be ignored." That's a big figure on the scale in the favor of development.
And so I'll - I'll leave it there.
But, again, the President is delivering the most aggressive climate agenda in the U.S. history. And that is going to be his continued - his continued commitment to the American people.
Q And so, is it the position of the White House that there was no other option other than approving the permits for the project?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I just laid out there was - there were - those - the lega- - there was a legal right to - they had legal right to those leases. Right?
And he - the President is going to do what he can under the - as the law permits.
And so, again, this is a President who has delivered on the most aggressive climate agenda in the U.S. history. And he's going to continue to do that.
Q And do you have a reaction or a response to the two lawsuits filed by conservation groups against the government seeking to stop the project?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just - I'm not going to comment on any lawsuits at this time.
Q On Ukraine. In the coming months, does the administration have any plans to ask Congress to pass an additional aid supplemental for Ukraine beyond the $6 billion that the President asked for in his budget request? And are there concerns about whether the political will to do so on the Hill is eroding?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, thanks to the bipartisan congressional support for Ukraine that was passed in September, we believe we have the resources we need through the end of this fiscal year. And I think that's important. Again, that was done in a bipartisan way.
So, of course, we're going to continue to elevate whether any additional resources are needed, based on the conditions that we're currently seeing on the ground that we do - that we see as we move forward on the ground in Ukraine.
But, again, we appreciate the bipartisan support that we saw in September. We believe that it's going to go through the end of - end of the fiscal year.
And, again, we're - just everything that we have done, as it relates to Ukraine, has been done in a bipartisan way.
Q Thanks, Karine. You said the White House tries to stay away from the CFIUS process. But has there been any communication between the White House and CFIUS on the issue of TikTok?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I - I don't have any conversations to read out at this time.
Q So you're -
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don't have any. We - this is a process that's done on its own, separately.
But certainly, I don't have any conversation to read out.
Q And then just another one. Are - is the administration planning for different contingencies as it relates to the case over the abortion pill, particularly as yesterday it seemed the judge - the judge seemed receptive to the argument that the pill is unsafe?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I want to be careful here. I'm not going to get into any litigation that's currently happening, get - stay out of - or put - say anything that might get in the way there.
But this is about FDA's authority to make its independent, evidence-based decision on drugs. This is what this is about.
Decisions on what medication can be used in our country should not be determined in a court. They should be determined based on their safety, science, and the data.
And so, the bottom line is that mifepristone is safe, and there's no question about that. We know that because it's been around for two decades. It's in more than 60 countries across - across the globe, clearly. It is - it has been exhaustively shown to be safe, with real data on countless occasion, and it has been used in this country, again, for more than 20 years.
So, we'll wait for the next steps. I'm not going to get involved in what the judge said yesterday. We're going to see where this goes. And - and we're not going to say much more from here.
Q I understand. I just - on that, there was some criticism about the White House after the draft decision of Roe v. Wade - or the opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade - that they felt the White House had weeks to prepare for the - what became the overturning of that opinion. And activists and even some Democratic lawmakers felt that the White House did not have a robust plan in place to respond to that. So, I'm wondering: In this case, is there planning underway here at the White House in the - in case this -
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There's been discussion -
Q - this decision goes the other way?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: - here at the White House about what could happen next in case the judge decides to make this really unprecedented - potentially unprecedented decision.
But I just want to go back to the Roe v. Wade and what are - and the criticism that you just said that we received. And I would dispute those. I would dispute those criticisms, because on the day - because on the day that it occ- - it happened, you heard from the President. He laid out some executive actions from - from this White House on how to move forward.
This is a President - and the Vice President - has been very vocal on making sure that the health of women are protected across - just across the country. We're talking about millions and millions of women. And he's going to continue to do that. That is not going to change from this White House.
And we've continued to take action since then through the HHS and other - and DOJ and other parts of his administration. This is an issue that's important to this administration.
And, again, what can potentially occur here is - is, sadly, you know, unprecedented. And this is a - this is going to put all - everything that we have seen since June, when Roe and - when Roe v. Wade was - was taken away from women, puts women's lives in danger. And now we're seeing anti-abortion legislation across the country - again, dangerous to the health of women.
And we're seeing, you know, national Republicans talking about a national ban. Again, that is dangerous to women. That's something that the President is going to continue to speak out against.
Go ahead, Kristen.
Q Karine, thank you so much. The NSA Director General has called TikTok a "loaded gun" because so many Americans rely on it both for social media and its - they get their news from TikTok. Does the President, does the administration agree with that assessment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just not going to get ahead of any - any comments that's been made on TikTok at this time.
Again, CFIUS is looking at - is doing a review. We're going to let them do their review. We've been clear about our concerns - express our concerns with the software, this particular app, because we - the President believes that it's important to - to protect the privacy and the safety of Americans. It's important to protect our national security.
But I'm not going to get ahead of the review.
Again, we're going to show - we are - we're showing and we've been very clear in supporting the bipartisan legislation.
Q Let me try it this way: Does the President think that Americans should be on TikTok?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I'm not going to - I'm not going to speak to - to that.
What I can speak to is what the President believes that he needs to do, which is making sure that the safety and privacy of Americans are protected. And he'll speak to that.
But I'm not going to speak to actions that the American people should take or not take.
Q I just want to follow up on the video that was released of the drone. Given that it clearly refuted the initial accounts that were offered by the Russians about what happened, is there a broader impact on U.S.-Russia relations? In other words, has it made an already incredibly tense relationship worse?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Do you mean is it going to lead to escalation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, a couple of things there. And we've been clear, the Pentagon has been clear, my colleagues at NSC has been clear as well: The actions by Russian pilots in international airspace were reckless and dangerous. We have raised those concerns directly with Russian leadership. And we will continue to exercise our rights in international airspace.
Clearly, we do not seek armed conflict with Russia. We maintain direct lines of communication for reasons like this to minimize risk of escalation.
But, again, we do not seek armed conflict with Russia. And so I'll leave it there.
Q One more, if I could, on the Willow Project. In addition to the environmental groups, there are a lot of young voters who are criticizing the President greenlighting an oil drilling venture in Alaska. What is his message to those young voters who feel like this is a betrayal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, this is a - the message is this: This is a President that has delivered on the most aggressive climate agenda in the United States history, and he's going to continue to do that.
And he has - he has the receipts for it, right? He has conserved more land and water in the first year than any President since JFK. He has fully closed off the U.S. Arctic Ocean to new oil and gas leasing. He has secured record investment in climate resilience and environmental justice. And his economic agenda is fueling an unprecedented clean energy manufacturing boom that is bringing energy costs down, reducing America's resilience on oil, and finally putting us back on track to meet our clean energy projects.
Again, this is a President who has done more on climate change than any other President in history. And he's committed to it, and he's going to continue to do so.
Q Thank you, Karine. Will any White House officials be meeting with the President of Taiwan when she's here in a couple of weeks? And is there still concerns that there could be fallout for her meeting with Speaker McCarthy?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, first of all, I don't - I don't have a - I don't have a trip to - I don't believe the trip has been announced or Taiwan has announced any transit at this time.
There's a couple of things I do want to say, because I know this has come up a couple of times. And so, any - any potential transit that Taiwan might be making, certainly I would refer you to Taiwan.
I will say that transits of the United States by high-level Taiwan officials are consistent with the longstanding U.S. practice. The unoffic- - unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan in U.S. policy, which remains unchanged.
Every Taiwan President has transited the United States. President Tsai has transited the United States at least six times - about six times since taking office in 2016, and done so without incident.
Such transits are undertaken out of consideration for the safety, comfort, convenience, and dignity of the passenger, and are in keeping with our One China policy, which remains unchanged.
Transits are not visits; they are private and official - and unofficial.
So I will also note that high-level Taiwan officials have typically met with members of Congress, which is a separate and co-equal branch of government, during past transits. But I believe that Taiwan has not yet announced a transit at this time.
Q And a quick one on banking. Is there any actions that the White House is taking right now, before Congress can pass any new legislation, to prevent further contagion, further banks from failing, and that potentially bleeding into the economy?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as I mentioned, as I - as you heard from the President directly over the weekend - and he talked about this on Monday - he directed his NEC and Sec- - Treasury Secretary to - to work with the bank regulators to take action.
And you heard from - directly from the Secretary of Treasury today about what those actions were able to do to give confidence to the American people, making sure that taxpayers do not have to pay, are not responsible for what investors did, and making sure that our banking system continues and remains sound.
And so, those actions that - that the government took -
Q But anything since the weekend? Anything since the weekend?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I can tell you this: that we have - we have said that there's going to be - more will be said on this once we find out how we - how this occurred and getting to the bottom of exactly what happened.
The President thinks that's very important to do. He spoke about that on Monday.
So, I'm not going to get ahead of that.
In the meantime, Congress needs to act. It's important for Congress to act. There are things that we can do in the administration. But in order to really deal with this issue, we have to act.
That's why - that's why - we're not in 2008 because of the actions that the Obama-Biden White House took. But, again, many of those actions that were taken for - to - after what happened - occurred in 2008 were rolled back by the last administration.
So, we have to actually address those issues, and so we're asking Congress to do just that.
Go ahead, Weijia.
Q Thank you, Karine. President Biden has said before that he himself does not have TikTok on his phone. Do you know if any of his grandchildren or any other family members who he spends time with has it on their phones?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I do not know.
Q Can you find out? I mean, he spends time with them, so they -
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you, he spends time with them. But - I hear you.
Q - and he's been influenced by them before to make Tik Toks, so -
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear - I just - it's just - it's just not something that I'm aware of and I'm just not going to speak to. They are private citizens. I'm just not going to speak to what they have on their phones or not.
Q Got it. And on the Polish fighter jets: Just last month, the Russians warned that if the UK provided fighter jets to Ukraine, it would have serious military and political ramifications for the entire world.
I know that John Kirby stressed that this was a decision by Poland. But how does President Biden think that decision will impact the war and also potentially impact NATO?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as - as my colleague at NSC said, Admiral Kirby, it is a sovereign decision that is made by a country. It's their decision to make. Poland has been providing, as you know, a significant amount of security assistance to Ukraine, as more than 50 nations around the world, alongside the United States, has done as well.
And so, look, we are committed. And we've - we've said this before. And because of the President's leadership, you've seen - you've seen NATO be unified, you've seen the West be unified to - committed to making sure that Ukraine is able to - the people of Ukraine is able to fight for their democracy and for their freedom.
Remember, this is a war - as you all know and covered, this is a war that Russia started. They are the ones that are invading a sovereign nation. And so, we believe it's important, along with our allies, to - to help Ukraine the best that we can.
And so, we're going to continue doing an historic amount of security assistance, as we have done, and to make sure that they have what they need to continue to fight for their democracy and their freedom.
Q I hear what you're saying about the decision-making, but does the President think the decision will only impact Poland and Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say that again? What do you mean a decision with Poland?
Q Well, it was Poland's decision, right? But now that they are delivering these fighter jets, how will that impact NATO Allies and the war, given what Russia has warned about providing fighter jets just last month?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we have said it is important for our partners, our - across the globe, to do everything that they can to - to help Ukraine. And so, that hasn't changed, you know.
And as you saw, the President was in Poland recently, had a one-on-one intera- - engagement with President Duda. And you saw their commitment by both leaders to continue to do everything that they can, that we can to give Ukraine what they need.
And the President was - President Duda was very, very thankful to the President for everything that we have done. We are thankful to President Duda being - you know, being right there at the border alongside Ukraine, having to - having to be one of the closest ally that have to - that has to make sure that Ukraine has what they need, but also - also be part of that alliance that continues to provide the security assistance that Ukraine needs. I'm not going to - again, it's a sovereign decision. It is their decision to make.
But you have seen a strong alliance, a strong partners, a strong West. NATO is - has come together to do everything that we can to make sure that the people of Ukraine have - have the security assistance that they need on the ground to fight for their freedom.
And I'll just leave it there.
Q And then, just quickly: Did President Biden know that that was President Duda's decision before he announced it yesterday during that press conference?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we were informed by - by their decision, by the Po- - by Poland to provide the jets to Ukraine. So, we continue to closely coordinate with our allies and partners, including Poland, as we provide assistance to Ukraine.
Yesterday, Secretary Austin, as you probably know, the tenth - hosted the tenth Ukraine Defense Contact Group in which countries around the world continue to step up, support Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia - Russian aggression. And that's what you're going to continue to see.
Q Thank you.
Q In the back, Madam?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I'll go - go ahead. And then I'll keep going.
Q Thank - thank you. There were some new figures out today showing the highest maternal mortality rate in half a century, or a little more, in fact. And, of course, that puts the U.S. right at the top of wealthy countries, in terms of maternal mortality. Does the White House, you know, have any plans about this? That's all. Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I have a statement here that we wanted to share with all of you.
Look, the data that came out today show for far too long pregnant and postpartum women have gotten the short - have been short-shifted here, which is exactly why the President and congressional Democrats are working to improve their access to healthcare, to lower healthcare cost, and to significantly increase investments in improving maternal health.
But meanwhile, what we're seeing from the other side, what we're seeing from Republicans, are doing the - they're doing the complete opposite, which is consistent and on brand for them: working to gut healthcare for Americans, repeal Affordable Care Act, and make deep cuts to Medicaid, which is the last thing we should do, given that 40 percent of women have Medicaid coverage at the time of delivery.
It is incomprehensible, and it is incredibly dangerous what we're seeing from our Republicans colleagues in Congress.
The most powerful country in the world should not be accepting this as a reality. This is a crisis, and we are taking action. The President and the Vice President will continue this fight to ensure pregnant and postpartum women and all Americans have the care they need to stay healthy. And that's the commitment that you'll see from this President.
Go ahead, April.
Q Karine, two questions. First, on the abortion pill and the Texas case. What happens to disadvantaged women, particularly in the Black and brown community, if this pill is abolished or not allowed in that state? What happens?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm not going get ahead of the decision that the courts are going to be making anytime soon, today - who knows - a couple of days. Going to stay out of that.
But we've been very clear. We've been very clear that what is - what could potentially happen is unprecedented. We're talking about a pill that's been around for two decades, it's been in more than 60 countries across - across the globe, that is safe. And this is something that the FDA should decide on what's safe and what could be - what could be beneficial to women's health.
So, yes, if that - this were to occur - again, I'm not going to - want to be very careful here - this would be devastating to those - to that very group that you just listed out, April.
Q So are you questioning his definitional qualification of what's safe - the judge?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not questioning anything at this time. This is something that the judge has to decide. I want to be very careful. This is an ongoing litigation. But what could happen would be unprecedented. And the President and this administration - you're going to continue to hear us speak - speak up for women across the country.
Q And next question. Shanquella Robinson. Ben Crump has sent a letter to the White House about this case. This young woman was killed in Mexico in October of last year. The suspect is in this country, along with those - back here - along with those who were present during the br- - the deadly beating. Okay?
He sent a letter asking for extradition of the suspect to Mexico for the Mexican authorities to deal with, or, if not, take jurisdiction of it here and deal with it. What's next? What's the White House willing to do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just first say our hearts go out to Miss Robinson's family and friends. It is devastating, what occurred. And, certainly, the - the tragedy is just devastating.
And we've been following the news here. But because - because there's an FBI investigation underway, there's very little that we can say. We got to - as you know, we are very careful about criminal investigations or any investigations that are currently happening through DOJ - in this particular case, FBI.
But our hearts go out to - again, to the families.
And I would have to refer you to the DOJ and the State Department on this.
Q So, let me - let me ask you this: So, since there's an FBI investigation, does that mean nothing happens until the investigation is complete? Or, I mean, could - I mean, the United States has extradition - extradition treaty with Mexico. Is it - is all of this contingent upon the FBI investigation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is there's an investigation going on, so this is something that the FBI has to speak to. So that's why I'm referring you to the Department of Justice.
And it's also an issue of the State Department. Again, so, would refer you to the State Department, as it relates to another country, and the diplomatic conversations that occur there.
But again, this is something that we're clearly following here. And our hearts go out to her family.
Q And last question on this though: Are there capabilities for the United States to take jurisdiction over this if it doesn't go - if the suspect is not extradited back?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, April, I understand the question, and I appreciate the questions - all important questions to ask of me. But, again, there's an ongoing investigation, so I would refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q But this is about process, not necessarily the investigation. Do - does the United States have -
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But there is -
Q - the capability -
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: - but there is a process that's currently happening because of the investigation, so I would refer you to the Department of Justice and also the State Department, as there are - you know, this is a diplomatic issue that needs to be handled on that end.
Q Karine, you have time for, like, two more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead. And then - I'm sorry, and then I'll go to the back.
Q I know you were asked about this last week. At that point, you all didn't have an answer. I wonder if you do have an answer now as to whether or not the President will sign the COVID origins intelligence bill that was unanimously passed.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it's - so, we are - thank you for the question. I know I was asked about it, I believe on the plane on Monday, as you just mentioned.
So, we're looking at it. We have continued to share information with members of Congress.
And, as you know, just months after the President came into office, he asked his intelligence community to double down and to take a look of the - of the origins - of the COVID origins because we believe it's important to get to the bottom of this. And to get - and also, if - once we have - once the intelligence community has made the - made the assessments, clearly, we would share that with the public.
As it relates to the legislation, we're going to continue to - we're going to take a look at it. And, certainly, we'll have more to share.
Q But you haven't made a decision whether he will sign it or not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we're - we're just taking a look. We're taking a look into the - into the bill.
Go ahead, Cristina, in the back.
Q Thank you, Karine. Can you confirm if the administration is considering redesignating Temporary Protected Status to Nicaraguans and what that would look like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we don't have anything to share on that at this time. Any announcement, as you know, when it comes to Temporary Protected Status, that is something that is housed under the Department of Homeland Security. And they - they designate - that would be something for Secretary Mayorkas to designate. And so, I just don't have anything for you.
Q Are there conversations? Any -
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would - I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security.
Q And then, one more question on the - on the video. Is there a red line for - for Russia? Is there a point where these aggressions become an act of war? And I - are they aware of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as I said earlier, we have had - the lines of communications with Russia has been open. We've had those conversations with - with - with Russia. And so, I'll - I'll leave it there. And we'll continue to make those communica- - the - have those communications.
We're not looking for escalation. I said that moments ago. And - and I'll just leave it there. That is not what we're looking for with Russia.
I'll try to take more in the back.
Go ahead, Courtney.
Q Thank you. I wanted to ask you about travel requirements. The U.S. lifted the requirement for COVID-19 tests for travelers flying from China. Do you have any update on the vaccine requirement for international travel in general?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any updates at this time.
Q And a second question, on parole. The U.S. has had a humanitarian parole program that you opened for the four countries from Latin America. That program is being challenged in court in Texas. Can you talk about the implications of that case? I know that that type of parole has been a tool that the President has used repeatedly in the last two years, not just for the southern hemisphere but for other humanitarian crises.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so as we - as you know, that parole program that we put into place is working. It's working. The - it's - it's gone down - those four countries crossing over - coming - coming to the border has gone down by more than 95 percent. And so this is a - this is a program that the President was able to - to utilize because of the tools that he had in front of him.
Remember, Congress is not acting. Republicans refuse to take action. The President put forth a comprehensive immigration reform bill on day one, and they have refused to work with us.
So, again, the President put this - put this program together. And, again, it's working.
And instead - instead of con- - Republicans in Congress or Republicans working with us on fixing this issue or dealing with a real issue - the border - they want to repeal a program that is actually doing what it is supposed to be doing.
So this is a political stunt by them. This is something that they're not serious about, and it is unfortunate.
Look, we're going to secure the border and do the work. You've heard from - from Mayorkas on this. Do the work - Secretary Mayorkas on this - do the work to continue to do that.
But we need Congress to act. We need Republicans to seriously come to the table and deal with it. Repealing a program that is working is - just doesn't make sense. And it's a political stunt.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know - I know I have to go. I'll take one more.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Karine. You laid out a very detailed schedule for the President tomorrow with the Prime Minister of Ireland, but it did not include a two-and-two press conference. Can you say why not and whether that might be added to the schedule tomorrow? This is kind of -
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I think you've -
Q - becoming a pattern with a lot of the world leaders who are coming to -
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look -
Q - the White House.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I've spoken to this many times when it comes to diplomatic -
Q (Inaudible) bringing it up in the briefing that it's not a part of the schedule.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I - right. And my - I am - again, I brought it up many times, and I gave an explanation. These are diplomatic conversations that happen with the - with - with the countries that are visiting, and it is something that is decided in that way.
But there will no - there will not be a two-plus-two tomorrow, as you just noted. But, again, this is in coordination with - with the country that come to visit here at the White House.
You're going to have an opportunity, or your colleagues will have an opportunity to ask questions during the - the pool spray of the Oval - at the Oval that - that happen every time a - a - a head of state visits. So that is an opportunity to be able to pose a question to the President or - or the head of state that is visiting the White House at - on that day.
But, again, this is coordinated.
Q Karine, he never answers questions during those pool sprays.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's not true. He has - he's answered.
Q Very seldom.
Q We get shouted at.
Q We get shoved out.
Q We get yelled at. "Press, thank you! Thank you!"
Q Will you commit to having him answer a question tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It's not - here's -
Q We get yelled at during those.
Q The press is normally shouted down when we're in the Oval Office.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But -
Q (Inaudible) shout at us to get out.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But here's - I - I hear you guys. I hear you guys.
Q (Inaudible) for the one-on-ones.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) I hear you guys.
Look, the two-plus-two is something that is done in coordination with the country that is visiting. That is not something that is unilaterally decidal - decided. That is something that is in discussion with the other country.
I was asked about the two-plus-two. I was also - I also was adding that there is an opportunity where press will be in the room with the two leaders. I cannot speak to if - who's going to take questions or who's not going to take questions.
As you know, this is a President that takes shouted questions often. But the two-plus-two is not a unilateral decision. It is a decision that happens with the visiting country in coordination with them.
With that, guys, I'll see you.
3:02 P.M. EDT
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