July 15, 2024
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 2:15 P.M. EDT (White House Easter Bunny enters Press Briefing Room to greet press.) MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, hop on out of here.  Hop on out of here.  (Laughs.) Q    Bye!  Bye Easter Bunny! MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  So — so for the second year in a row — Thank […]

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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:15 P.M. EDT

(White House Easter Bunny enters Press Briefing Room to greet press.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, hop on out of here.  Hop on out of here.  (Laughs.)

Q    Bye!  Bye Easter Bunny!

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  So — so for the second year in a row —

Thank you, Easter Bunny.

Q    Thank you!

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  For the second year in a wa- — row, we’ve turned the South Lawn of the White House into a school community where 30,000 people from across the country will participate in one of the White House most cherished traditions.  This year’s theme is EGGucation.  And we’re remain — and we’re reminding families that education can be fun and that it never stops.

So I hope that some of you had the opportunity to get out there and hop on it — sorry, my team wrote that, apologies — (laughter) — hop on it with your families and enjoy the beautiful, beautiful day outside.

With that — so we’d like to thank our Easter Bunny here.

On a more serious note, today we saw another senseless act of gun violence — killed at least four Americans and injured at least eight others — this time in Louisville, Kentucky.

The President and the First Lady are praying for those killed and injured in the tragic shooting in Louisville and for the survivors who will carry the trauma for the rest of their lives. 

They are grateful for the LMPD offi- — officers who quickly and courageously stepped into the line of fire to save others.

Once again, today, the President has called on Republicans in Congress to work together with Democrats to take action to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, to require safe storage of firearms, to require background checks for all gun sales, to eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.

These are commonsense actions we can — we can ask for and should be getting right now.  And it’s what Americans want.  We know that a majority of the American people support this.

Instead, we’ve watched Republican official after Republican official after Republican official double down on dangerous bills that make our schools, that makes our places — places of worship, that makes our communities less safe while too many Americans are paying with their lives.

So again, we need to act, and we need Republicans to show some courage — Republicans in Congress.

Over the weekend, a single court in Texas has taken the dangerous steps of rejecting FDA’s scientific approval of mifepristone, a medication that has been on the market for more than 20 years and is used safely in more than 60 countries, providing critical care for women.

This court decision threatens access to this medication, which is used not only for abortion but also for other critical purs- — purposes, like helping women manage miscarriages.

If the decision stands, it will put women’s health at risk and undermine the FDA’s ability to ensure patients have access to safe and effective medications when they need them the most.

This decision further stripes [strips] away Americans’ fundamental freedoms and interferes with a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own body.  And it’s another step towards the ultimate goal that we’ve heard over and over again from anti-choice officials that both the state and — at the both the state and national level: eliminating access to abortion for all women in every state.

It is also an attack on FDA’s authority to review and approve a wide range of safe and effective medication for Americans and could open the floodgates for other medications to be targeted and denied to people who need them.

So, we were prepared for this outcome.  And as you all saw, the Department of Justice appealed the court’s decision and is seeking a stay, standing — stay pending appeal. 

But I want to be clear because there is a lot of bad misinformation out there: Mifepristone continues to be available and approved for the time being.  Again, mifepristone continues to be approved and available for the time being.

This administration stands by the FDA and is prepared to — for this legal fight.  And we will continue our work to protect reproductive rights to ensure that women can make their own decisions about their own bodies without government interfering.

With that, I have some more guests that are supposed to come through that door any moment now.  Timing?  Okay.  (Laughter.) 

(Admiral John Kirby enters the Press Briefing Room.)

And so, finally, today —

Q    (Inaudible.)

Q    You look better in a rabbit suit!

Q    Was it hard to take off?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He was — he was actually in the suit.  No, just kidding.  (Laughs.)  Just kidding, Admiral. 

Q    Interesting timing.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He was not in a suit.  Right.  (Laughs.)

Okay.  So, finally, today, as you can see, Admiral John Kirby, my colleague from NSC, is here to join us to talk about — to give a preview of the President’s trip abroad, where the President is going to leave tomorrow morning for the United Kingdom and also Northern Irela- — Ireland, a trip that the President is definitely looking forward to.

And, with that, Admiral, the floor is yours.

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, Karine. 

Afternoon, everybody.  So, as Karine just mentioned, the President is traveling to the United Kingdom and Ireland this week.  And as I think you all also know, he’s very excited for this trip and has been now for quite some time. 

Tomorrow he will depart for Belfast, where he’ll be greeted upon arrival at the airport by Prime Minister Sunak, who he also just saw last month in San Diego at the AUKUS announcement. 

On Wednesday, President Biden will meet with Prime Minister Sunak bilaterally.  From there, President Biden will head to Ulster University to deliver remarks marking the tremendous progress since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago.  And he’ll underscore the readiness of the United States to preserve those gains and support Northern Ireland’s vast economic potential to the benefit of all communities. 

Today, I think you all know, is actually the — is the 25th anniversary since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was signed, ending decades of violence and bringing peace and stability to Northern Ireland. 

President Biden cares deeply about Northern Ireland and has a long history of supporting peace and prosperity there.  As a U.S. senator, Joe Biden was an advocate for how the United States can play a constructive role supporting peace. 

Following his speech at Ulster University, the President will travel to Ireland on Wednesday afternoon.  He will visit County Louth, where his great grandfather James Finnegan was born and the Finnegan family lived before they crossed the sea to begin a new life in America.  And he’ll tour Carlingford Castle. 

On Wednesday night, the President will spend the night in Dublin.

On Thursday, he will meet with President Higgins of Ireland and participate in a tree planting ceremony and ringing of the Peace Bell.  Following that ceremony, he will meet again with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, whom the President just hosted here for St. Patrick’s Day, as I think you all remember.  In both meetings, the President will discuss our close cooperation on the full range of shared global challenges. 

He will then address a joint session of Irish parliament about U.S.-Irish cooperation to advance democracy, peace, security, and prosperity, as well as the shared deep history between the United States and Ireland. 

Today, 1 in 10 Americans claim Irish ancestry, and Irish Americans are proudly represented in every facet of American life.  Ireland is a key economic partner of the United States, and the United States and Ireland are working closely together to make the global economy more fair. 

Ireland has been a key partner for 21st century challenges as well.  And the Irish government has been strong supporters of Ukraine, providing vital non-lethal assistance, including medical supplies, body armor, and support for Ukraine’s electric grid, as well as their agriculture. 

They have supported EU sanctions on Russia, and the people of Ireland have generously welcomed nearly 80,000 Ukrainians, offering refuge to those who were forced to flee their homes in search of safety. 

On Thursday night, President Biden will attend a banquet dinner at Dublin Castle.

And on Friday, the President will travel to County Mayo, where he will tour the sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock and visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Center’s Family History Research Unit. 

He will then deliver remarks at St. Muredach’s Cathedral, which his great-great-grandfather — great-great-great-grandfather — sorry — Edward Blewitt sold 27,000 bricks to in 1827.  Those bricks were used to construct and support the great cathedral and helped Edward afford to buy tickets for himself and for his family to sail together to America decades later in 1851.

The President is very much looking forward to that trip, again, and to celebrating the deep, historic ties that our two countries and our two people continue to share. 

With that, I’ll take some questions. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay. 

Q    Thanks, John.  If we could start on the — the classified document leaks.  Has the President been briefed on this breach?  And does the U.S. government, at this point, have any sense of who was behind it?

MR. KIRBY:  The President has been briefed.  He was first briefed late last week, when — when we all got word that there were some documents out there.  And he has been — stayed briefed and in contact with national security officials throughout the weekend.  So he has been briefed. 

And as for the source, as you know, the Department of Defense has referred this to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation, and I certainly would refer you to them.  But I’m not aware that they’ve come to any conclusions at this point about where they’re coming from.

Q    And just a follow-up on that.  At this point, do you believe the leak is contained?  Are there more documents out there that have not been released publicly?  Is this an ongoing threat? 

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t know.  We truly don’t know. 

Q    Moving to the tension between China and Taiwan, we know the President can pick up the phone anytime and call President Xi.  We’ve been told that this call is coming for months.  Why hasn’t he just picked up the phone and called President Xi to say knock it off?

MR. KIRBY:  The President looks forward to having another conversation with President Xi.  And we’ll do that at the appropriate time, and we’ll certainly keep you apprised of that.  It’s important that those lines of communication stay open. 

The tensions are certainly high right now.  We’d like to see this relationship get onto a better footing.  And when it’s appropriate for the two leaders to talk, then — then that’ll happen. 

I want to stress — that said — that we are and have been able to maintain lines of communication between our two countries, even throughout all these tensions.  And in fact, we’re still working to get Secretary Blinken back on a plane over to Beijing, as he was planning to do a couple of months ago, and we’re in talks with the PRC about potential visits of Secretary Yellen and Secretary Raimondo — at their invitation, by the way — to talk about economic issues. 

Q    And while it’s not popular, would the President ever speak directly to President Tsai?  I mean, would — would there be a conversation there perhaps?  What is his take on this meeting between House Speaker McCarthy and President Tsai?

MR. KIRBY:  Not uncommon for presidents in Taiwan to transit the United States, as President Tsai did.  It’s also not uncommon for Taiwan officials, certainly at the president level, to meet with members of Congress, as President Tsai did.  This is — it’s very typical.  There’s, again, no reason for any overreaction here.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Sebastian.

Q    Thank you.  Hello, Admiral — over here.  Still on Taiwan: What — how does the U.S. see the latest Chinese military exercises?  And is the U.S. confident that Taiwan and help from the U.S. could continue to deter China from military solutions, as they would see it?  Because what they’ve been — you know, that saber-rattling, we call it, was a lot more than sabers and it’s more than rattling at this point.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, so we’re monitoring the exercises closely, as I think you might imagine.  They appear to be a reaction to something that didn’t need to be reacted to, in my previous answer.  This is not uncommon for presidents of Taiwan — and this one in particular — to transit the United States.

So there was no reason to react in any way, militarily or otherwise.  They also reacted rhetorically.

But we’re very comfortable and confident that we have in place, in the region, sufficient resources and capabilities to protect our national security interests in the Indo-Pacific.

I would add to your — more specifically, to your second question: There’s no reason for tensions across the Taiwan Strait to devolve into any kind of conflict.  Nothing has changed about our One China policy.  Nothing has changed about the fact that we don’t support Taiwan independence.  And nothing has changed about the fact that we don’t want to see the status quo change unilaterally and certainly not by force.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Just a quick one, if I may.  On Macron’s visit to China, how did you react to his comments about, you know, wanting to create a third superpower and so on?  Do you — do you wish him luck?  Is it just rhetoric?  Or is it kind of annoying to the — to the U.S. administration (inaudible) allies?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll let the — I’ll let the Élysée speak to President Macron’s comments.

We are, again, comfortable and confident in the terrific bilateral relationship we have with France and the relationship that the President has with President Macron and the fact that we’re working together on so many different issues. 

And the French are stepping up in the Indo-Pacific.  I mean, they’re conducting naval operations, even as you and I are speaking right now, in the Indo-Pacific, all in keeping with a concerted effort by all of us — this vast alliance or network of alliances and partnerships that we have — to continue to make sure that we’re standing up for stability, security, prosperity, and a free and open Indo-Pacific.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Weijia.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  And thank you, Kirby.  In light of the classified documents, I wonder if you could tell us when was the last time the protocol to grant security clearances was updated or revised in the — in the government.  And in light of the leaks, does the President believe you should take another look at that?

MR. KIRBY:  I think the Department of Defense has already started to take a look at distribution, for instance, at the — at the Pentagon.  I’ll let them speak to that.

I don’t know the answer to your question on protocols for who is or who is not granted security clearances.  There is already in place and remains in place a very diligent, deliberate effort to manage security clearances.  And sometimes we get knocked because it takes a little too long for people’s clearances to get approved because the process is so careful and deliberate.

I think — to your question, I think we just need to be careful right now speculating or guessing what might be behind – what might be behind or who might be behind what looks like a potential leak here of classified information.  So we’re going to — we need to let the process sort of bear itself out.

Q    So are you saying there’s a question over whether this was a leak by someone who had access to the materials?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m saying we don’t know, which is why I’m going to — you know, I think you’re getting to remedies, and I understand that.  We’re only a couple of days into this.  We need to let the Department of Justice do their job, investigate this, see what they learn.

Now, again, that said, the Department of Defense has already said that they’re taking a look at distribution and looking at if there’s — if there’s changes they need to make administratively there, at the Pentagon, since it appears that they are — that they have the locus of most of the documents.

But again, before we start making major muscle movements, we really need to know what we got here and have a better sense from the Justice Department.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Terry.

Q    Thank you.  Just a couple — just a couple of quick follow-ups.  Do you have a sense of the number of people who would have had access to these documents apparently prepared for the Joint Staff? 

MR. KIRBY:  I do not.

Q    Is it hundreds?  Thousands?

MR. KIRBY:  I do not.  I’d refer you to the Defense Department.

Q    And then, given this leak and previous leaks, should the American people think that the administration is losing the battle against whoever wants to steal our secrets, whether it’s foreign adversaries or hackers or whomever?

MR. KIRBY:  I think the American people need to know and deserve to know that we’re taking this very, very seriously.  The President —

Q    But it happens —

MR. KIRBY:  The President —

Q    — again and again.

MR. KIRBY:  The President has been briefed on this.  He will stay briefed on this.  The Department of Defense is looking into this.  They are leading an interagency effort here to review whatever national security implications might come out of all this.  And the Department of Justice is leading a criminal investigation.  So we’re taking this very, very seriously.

There is no excuse for these kinds of documents to be in the public domain.  They don’t deserve to be in the public domain.  They deserve to be protected.

So we’re going to get to the bottom of this.  And then, if there’s actions that need to be taken, as we learn more about the extent of what happened here, we’ll obviously take those.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Monica.  And then I’ll go to the back.

Q    Are there plans for President Biden to speak with President Zelenskyy over the leak?  Or is the White House offering any kind of reassurance to Ukrainian officials about the safety of some of their most sensitive information?

MR. KIRBY:  U.S. officials have been in touch with relevant allies and partners over the last couple of days at very high levels.  I’ll leave it at that.

Q    And can you speak to not just the potential leak here, but what appears to be some doctoring of the information?  Is this something where it’s possible that there may have been a leak, but then a different actor came in, manipulated the information, and posted it online?  What’s the working theory in terms of the actual altering of this information?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know that we’ve arrived at a working theory.  It does appear that at least in some cases, the information posted online had been altered from what we think would be the original source. 

But there’s just no way I can tell you with any granularity right now how that came to be.  We’re — again, we’re diving into this as strenuously as we can to try to understand that. 

And in keeping with your point, I mean, we urge all of you to be very careful about — about how you report on this story since we know, at least in some cases, that information was — was doctored. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Two questions, John.  First on — on China, you said that was a reaction that didn’t need to be made.  Some would call that an overreaction.  But how confident are you that there won’t be further overreaction leading to actual conflict if — if this reaction was an overreaction?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, we certainly don’t seek any conflict.  And again, there’s no reason, Brian, for there to be any conflict over this — or confrontation, quite frankly — since, really, this is all very status quo.  Nothing has changed, and certainly not about our policies, and it’s not uncommon for a president of Taiwan to transit the United States. 

But to the exact question you asked, that’s a question that needs to be asked in Beijing — about what next.  What we hope is next is that, again, tensions de-escalate and that we can continue to communicate with the Chinese, that we can continue to work on getting Secretary Blinken over there. 

The whole purpose of that trip was to restore some of those additional lines of communication that are still closed after Speaker Pelosi’s visit — the mil-to-mil lines, the climate change lines.  That was what Secretary Blinken was heading over there to do, and we’d like to see him get back on that plane and head over to do that. 

Q    And the second question, on the classified documents: Has any of that leak led to a direct compromise of efforts to support Ukraine from this administration?

And secondly, those who are in that business say that the biggest problem we have is that we need software and hardware upgrades to guarantee that we don’t get hacked.  Is there any indication that the government is going to invest in the infrastructure to make sure they can block that in the future?

MR. KIRBY:  So, on your first question: No.  We continue to support Ukraine.  That’s not going to change.  The President has been —

Q    But has it compromised it?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to talk about the specific documents that are out there or speak to intelligence.  I think you can understand why I wouldn’t do that. 

Your question was: Has there been any effect on support to Ukraine?  The answer is no.  We’re going to continue to support Ukraine, as the President has said, for as long as it takes.

On technological upgrades, again, I don’t have anything to speak to today.  And I don’t know that even if we did, that we would talk about that in a public setting. 

But, again, we’re only a few days into this.  We’ve got an investigation going on at Justice.  We got DOD looking at their processes over there.  I think we need to let those two agencies do their job, do that work. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Naomi, in the back.

Q    Thanks.  Just a follow-up on the documents.  Is the White House concerned about the period of time that elapsed from when they were posted to when they sort of gained traction?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re worried that these documents are out there, ma’am.  They shouldn’t be out there, period.  That’s the big worry.  And then trying to figure out how that happened. 

And I’m sure, as a part of that, the timeline will be looked at as well.  But the main concern is that they’re out there, period.  They don’t need to — they shouldn’t be — absolutely shouldn’t be in the public domain.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  John, has the U.S. changed its timeline for getting the necessary weapons to the Ukraine military in any way?
MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to — I wouldn’t — even in the wake of — even before this story, I would not sit here and talk about specific timelines of equipment deliveries.  You guys know that. 

What I — I’ll go back to what I said to Brian.  We’re going to continue to support Ukraine.  That hasn’t changed.  It’s not going to change. 

Q    And then, a second question, separately.  On NATO expansion, now that Finland is officially a member of NATO, what’s the timetable for Sweden being a part of the defense Alliance?

MR. KIRBY:  We would like to see Sweden join the Alliance as soon as possible, but that is going to be a discussion between Sweden and the Alliance.  And as you know, there’s still some work being done in that regard. 

But we think they’re ready now, and we’re excited to have them as new members. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Owen in the back.

MR. KIRBY:  As a new member.  Sorry.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  John, hi.  Back here.  Thank you.  Good afternoon.  Thank you.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, but this is making a lot of headlines today, this story.  Walter Reed, up the road in Bethesda — a leading Catholic Bishop says Walter Reed Medical Center is violating the religious freedom of service members who are at the facility.  And they say that because Walter Reed just ended its contract with the archdiocese for the military services for providing pastoral care. 

The archdiocese calls the move, quote, “incomprehensible.”  Are you familiar with the story?  And can you expand on it —

MR. KIRBY:  No —

Q    — and why the contract was ended?

MR. KIRBY:  — I’m afraid I’m not.  And even — even if I was, really, this is a better question for the Department of Defense. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Steve.

Q    John, is it true that China refused to open their channel of communications with the Pentagon over the Taiwan issue the last several days?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t — I can’t confirm that reporting, Steve.  I don’t know. 

Q    And on the documents, have you been contacting any of the doc- — the governments mentioned in the documents to talk about it, to try to smooth things over?

MR. KIRBY:  As I said, U.S. officials have over the last couple of days, certainly throughout the weekend, communicated with relevant nations, relevant allies and partners as appropriate at very high levels to communicate with them about this.

Q    Will he bring this up when he speaks to the British Prime Minister later this week?

MR. KIRBY:  I won’t get ahead of — of specific items on the on the agenda and that bilat.  But we’ll certainly be able to communicate with you after the fact.

Q    Thanks, John.  Is the President concerned about recent threats of violence in Belfast?  And then, more broadly, can you just walk us through the decision to visit Northern Ireland at a time in which their assembly isn’t functioning?

MR. KIRBY:  So, on the — on the recent violence, certainly we’ve seen that, over the last couple of days, there have been some, and the President is grateful for the work that Northern Ireland security forces have done and continue to do to protect all communities and certainly the people in Northern Ireland.  And he’s, again, very much looking forward to going to Belfast.

The timing of this is really timed around the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, an agreement that the — that the President has a personal connection to and obviously is very — very proud to see has — has really changed lives and livelihoods in Northern Ireland.  And again, that’s really what’s — what’s driving this. 

Q    And I just have to try again on President Macron.  Do you have a response to him saying that, essentially, Europe doesn’t want to be seen as following the United States’ lead on China?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I’ll let President Macron speak to his comments.  We’re very comfortable and confident in the strong alliance, in the strong friendship that exists between our two countries. 

And the fact that we have been working together on the continent — excuse me — and elsewhere around the world with France, whether it’s — I mentioned the Indo-Pacific, certainly on Ukraine, in Africa, in the Sahel going after terrorist threats there.  I mean, there’s a lot of terrific bilateral cooperation just alone between the United States and France.  We’re focused on that.  We’re focused on making sure that together we’re — we’re meeting the national security requirements of both our peoples.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jeremy.

Q    Thanks.  Hey, John.  These leaked documents show that the U.S. has pretty in-depth contemporaneous information about Russia’s military operations inside of Ukraine.  Have you — has there been any impact on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts in Russia as a result of this leak?

And then in terms of the impact on allies who may be concerned that the U.S. simply can’t keep this kind of classified information — which is shared among allies — safe, what’s the reassurance to them?

MR. KIRBY:  I won’t — Jeremy, I won’t speak to intelligence collection one way or another, on any given day, about any other — around any topic.  So I’m just not going to go there. 

And as I said, U.S. officials have been in touch with relevant allies and partners, given some of these disclosures over the last few days.  And we’ll continue to have those conversations as appropriate. 

Q    And then, quickly, it’s been nearly two weeks now since Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Russia.  Why has he not yet been officially deemed “wrongfully detained” by the State Department?

MR. KIRBY:  State Department has a process that, you know, can take a matter of days and sometimes weeks as they work through that.  And I would refer you to the State Department to speak to that in any event. 

That said, you already heard Secretary Blinken say that, in his mind, he’s wrongfully detained.

Q    So why is it taking so long since he’s already said that?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I’d have to refer you to the State Department.  They’ve got a process here that they run through, Jeremy, to make these determinations.  And we need to let that process bear out. 

But setting aside for a second that he hasn’t been declared wrongfully detained, at least not as of yet, doesn’t mean that we haven’t condemned his detention.  We have.  It doesn’t mean that we haven’t been in touch with his family.  We have.  It doesn’t mean that we aren’t also working as strenuously as we can with Russian officials to get him released. 

He doesn’t belong there.  He needs to be released.  He’s a journalist, not a criminal. 

And it doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to continue to follow this case as closely as we can.  We still don’t have consular access.  And we’re — we’re also trying to get that, too.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Zolan. 

Q    Just — just a quick follow.  I know you’ve said a couple of times that the administration has been in touch with allies.  Does that include specifically South Korea and Israel, given the described sensitive material as it pertains to those two allies?

MR. KIRBY:  We’ve been in touch with allies and partners — relevant allies and partners.  I’ll leave it at that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, John.  I understand that you’re saying some of these documents might have been altered, but is it your assessment that at least some of them are authentic?

MR. KIRBY:  We know that some of them have been doctored.  I won’t speak to the validity of all the documents — the ones that — you know, that don’t immediately appear to be doctored.  We’re still working through the validity of all the documents that we know are out there.  The Department of Defense —

Q    But you’re working under the assumption that —

MR. KIRBY:  The Department of Defense — the Department of Defense has stood up an interagency effort to try to look at the national security implications, which includes taking a look at these documents to determine whether they’re actually valid or not.  And I’m just not in a position to speak to that work which is ongoing. 

Q    But you’re assuming some are valid at this point?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re — we’re saying we — we cannot speak to the veracity and the validity of any of those documents at this point.  We’re studying that.  We’re — DOD is leading an effort to study that to figure that out.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, a couple more. 

Go ahead, Emily.

Q    Thank you.  Thanks, Kirby.  I had a couple of questions about the Ireland trip.  I didn’t hear you mention a meeting with King Charles in the President’s schedule.  Is that not happening?

MR. KIRBY:  The President had a terrific conversation with the King last week to talk about, certainly, his upcoming trip here, but also to let the King know that the First Lady would be representing the administration at the coronation.  It was a terrific conversation, and the King was very grateful for it.  And the President was grateful for the time that the King afforded him.  These are two leaders that have known each other a long time and have a very good relationship.

Q    And then I wanted to follow up again about the warnings of violence in Northern Ireland, especially these reports there’s threats of terrorist attacks.  Is there concerns about the President going there now?

And then also, I’m curious why he is making the trip when he’s making it, instead of going to the official celebration, which is around April 17th and it’s going to see President Clinton and all those leaders there.  Why is President Biden making a separate trip from that?

MR. KIRBY:  I think I already answered that one.  I mean, this is really timed closer to the actual anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

And as for security concerns, you know we don’t ever talk about security requirements of protecting the President.  But the President is more than comfortable making this trip, and he’s very excited to do it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    We’re just finishing up the cherry blossom season in Washington, and it’s 111 years since the — Prince Tokugawa planted them.  And it was — much of it was to prese- — prevent a war.
Is there a role that Japan can be playing, especially China’s next-door, in some of these different crisises [sic]?  His grandson just took over.  Is there some role that Japan can be playing in some of — helping the U.S. with some of these crisises [sic], especially in terms of China?

MR. KIRBY:  I would argue that Japan already is and has been for quite some time.  I mean, they just rewrote their national security strategy that gives them — allows them to be on a more assertive footing in the Indo-Pacific in terms of exporting security. 

And Japan has been a strong supporter of Ukraine.  They have participated and will — and we hope will continue to participate in both bilateral operations and exercises with the Republic of Korea, but also trilateral with the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

So they’ve been really stepping up in a big way.  We’re grateful for that.

Q    And then just a follow-up.  For those of us that were embedded during the wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, a lot of this is really personal.  Some of our friends, people we know are — haven’t been able to come back.  What’s — is there an update on what’s going to happen to all those that trusted us and are left — left behind?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not sure I understand.  What —

Q    Some of those that are still in Afghanistan that assisted us and —

MR. KIRBY:  Afghan allies that are — yeah.  They — I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the question.  As I mentioned last week, there are Afghan allies still arriving back here in the United States and able to leave the country on a fairly routine basis.  That — that mission, that work has not stopped, and it’s going to continue.  Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    I had one more on the documents leak, specifically about the allies.  Some of them have already said that they were eagerly awaiting a sort of assessment of what happened from the United States.  Is that something that the U.S. will do down the line when you guys have more information — is to brief those allies who were involved in those leaks?

MR. KIRBY:  We will keep — we will keep relevant allies and partners as informed as we can.

Q    And just a quick follow-up on Taiwan.  You said that this was a reaction that didn’t need to happen.  Is the U.S. sort of considering changing its posture in the Indo-Pacific?  Looking to what happened over the past three days, over these military drills, is that changing in any way the U.S.’s posture in the region?

MR. KIRBY:  No.  As a matter of fact, today there are naval exercises in the Philippine Sea that the United States Navy is conducting.  We’re going to continue to fly and sail and operate in international waters, in international airspace as required to protect our national security commitments.

Again, I’d remind: Five of our seven treaty alliances are in the Indo-Pacific region.  We take those commitments very seriously.

Q    Can you lay out what the consequences will be for the people or the person responsible for the leaks of these classified information? And secondly, have you been able to gauge what their motive is, just based on how they’ve released this information?

MR. KIRBY:  The answer to both questions is: No, I can’t.

There’s a Justice Department investigation going on right now — a criminal investigation.  I am certainly not going to say anything that would prejudice that.  And that work is just starting.

So, we don’t know who’s behind this.  We don’t know what the motive is.  And I think — I can’t remember who asked before — but we don’t know what else might be out there.

So we’ve got to let the Department of Defense run their process with the interagency, and I’m taking a look at the national security implications of it.  And we got to let the Justice Department be able to pursue their investigation, again, completely unfettered and let the facts and the evidence take them where they may, and we’ll deal with it on the — on the back end.

Q    What is your message to them or anybody else who’s considering leaking information?

MR. KIRBY:  This is — again, without confirming the validity of the documents, this is information that has no business in the public domain.  It has no business, if you don’t mind me saying, on the pages of — frontpages of newspapers or on television.  It is not intended for public consumption, and it should not be out there.

What we’re going to try to do is do the best we can to figure out how this happened.  And again, the Justice Department will take it from a criminal investigative procedure.  And if — if the Defense Department has to change processes, you know, they’ll — they’ll do that.

But I think every American can understand — at least I would hope every American can understand — that in order to protect this country every day the way we do, one of the things we have to protect is information, not only the information itself, but the manner in which we glean that information. 

And so, I think you can understand why everybody is taking this particular set of disclosures very, very seriously.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ken.

Q    John, the U.S. and the UK started negotiations on a trade deal nearly three years ago.  What is the status of those talks?  And do you expect that to be on the table at all this week when the President meets with the Prime Minister?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re not in active discussions with the UK about a free trade agreement.  That said, even out at San Diego when the President had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Sunak, they talked about trade issues and they talked about the — you know, trying to find ways to increase and to improve the economic exchanges between the United States and the UK.  And that kind of discussion will continue.  But there’s no active discussions about an FTA.

Q    Do you expect a news conference on this trip?  I’m sure the press corps would be interested in one.

MR. KIRBY:  (Laughs.)  I don’t expect there’ll be a news conference on this trip.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, James.

Q    Thank you very much, Karine.  Thank you, Admiral.  A couple on the documents and then one on Taiwan, if I may. I don’t think that you would be telling us that this information has no business being publicly shared if you weren’t prepared to confirm the authenticity of it.  If they were completely spurious documents, I think you would say so and you wouldn’t be very concerned about it.

MR. KIRBY:  I didn’t say they were spurious documents; I said we’re still determining the validity of them.  They certainly appear to be directly related to national security concerns and intelligence.  That’s — that’s pretty obvious.

Q    Is there a gap between the number of documents that have turned up online and the number of documents that you know have been compromised?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to get into a process, James.  The Department of Defense has taken a look here at the national security implications of what has been out there to date.  And they’re — they’re doing the forensics.  I’m not going to get into that process.

Q    Last on the documents, before we hit Taiwan —

MR. KIRBY:  Can’t wait. (Laughter.)

Q    — because you tell us that you simply don’t know what’s coming next.  Are you in — is the U.S. government effectively in the position of crouching and waiting for the next bombshell to hit on telegram or Twitter, you’re in a position where you simply don’t know how long this is going to go on or how many documents are going to be published?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t — we don’t know what’s out there, James.  We don’t know who’s responsible for this.  And we don’t know if they have more that they intend to post.  So we’re watching this and monitoring it as best we can.

But the truth and the honest answer to your question is: We don’t know.  And is that a matter of concern to us?  You’re darn right it is.

Q    On Taiwan: In different respects, you have been candid in saying what you are able to discern about intentions of other countries.  For example, you — you have told us that you discern no immediate plans by China to aid materially in the Russian war effort in Ukraine.  You’ve told us that you discern no immediate plans by or movements by President Putin to install tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Along those lines, with respect to Taiwan right now, do you discern any movements by China that would indicate an imminent plan to launch military actions against Taiwan?

MR. KIRBY: President Xi has said he wants his military ready by 2027.  But the — but saying you want to be ready by a certain time doesn’t mean that you have an intent.  President Xi would have to speak to that specific intent himself.  We’re not seeing any overt indications that that kind of movement militarily is either imminent or inevitable.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, two questions left.  We’ll go to you, and then you’ll have the last question.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you, Karine.  Mr. Kirby, talking about Afghanistan, when the U.S. was withdrawing, one of the closest ally of the U.S. was Pakistan.  And the President did not call either the Prime Minister of Pakistan at that time.  Neither the weapons that — many claim that around 6 billion weapons were left — neither they moved to Pakistan to be moved out. Why Pakistan — one of the strongest ally, which sacrificed many lives — was not taken on board and why their services were not required?

MR. KIRBY:  Taken on board for what?  I’m not sure I follow you.

Q    For removing the U.S. citizens, for removing the Afghans who were coming to the U.S.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I mean, we set up a vast network of what we call “lily pads” to help get those evacuees to safety.  And we were grateful for many countries’ assistance.  And without that assistance, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.

As for Pakistan, they — they — I think it’s important to remember they also suffered from the threats, and still do, from terrorist groups that occupy that spine between the two countries.  And we continue to talk to Pakistan about those ongoing threats, about what they’re facing.

But there was — Pakistan was helpful in — in the withdrawal and when we had to use — well, with their permission, they were able — they — they allowed us to — to move some helicopters over — over to Pakistan so that they could be out of harm’s way. 

Q    Okay one other question, please.  Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has been shot — four bullets.  And President Biden has had kind relations with international leaders for decades.  He’s one of the U.S. politicians who has been known for kindness among international leaders.  He did not call the Prime Minister, and now the country is in a lot of turmoil as well.  Is there any chance the President can bring at least all the parties — the military, the judiciary, the politicians — on board so the country can be stopped from further deterioration of (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  Now, look, we firmly believe, and have for some time, that a — that a strong, stable, and secure Pakistan is good for the region.  So —

Q    Just one on South Korea? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Last question.

Q    Could you just clarify: Is the First Lady going on the Ireland trip?

MR. KIRBY:  You know, I don’t — I don’t have the actual traveling party here complete for you. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, that’s —

Q    One on South Korea? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s it.  That’s it.  Thank you.  Next time.

Q    Thank you, John. 

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, guys. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, let’s get going. 

Go ahead, Zeke. 

Q    To start on the Kentucky shooting, in the statement at the top of the briefing, you were pretty critical of Republicans, but you didn’t mention anything that the President wants to do — is doing himself about this.  Is he at the end of his ability to do anything when it comes to gun violence in the U.S.?  Is he effectively, at this point, powerless?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, Zeke, as you know — and as I’ve talked about, the President has talked about many times — the President, in his first two years of the administration, has done more histor- — has done more executive action than any other president when it comes to gun violence, when it comes to stemming gun violence, when it comes to protecting our communities or schools. 

And so, he’s taken action.  He has taken action over and over again.

Just last month, he was in the west on — the West Coast, announcing another executive action.  And we are seeing from these executive actions that he’s signed — more than a dozen — that — that the Department of Justice has taken some actions in pushing forward some of the some of the — some of the kind of provisions in those actions.  Especially as you look at — as you look at red flag laws and those types of programs, more than 300 million — million dollars went to about 49 states and territories to put that into place in those states.  So there is actions that we have taken. 

The thing is the President cannot do it alone.  You know this.  This is a leg- — there is a legislative process that needs to happen, and Congress needs to act.

And I listed out: Ban assault weapons?  Yes.  The President mentions that over and over again.  And high-capacity magazines.  Require safe storage of firearms, require background checks for all gun safeties, eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.  Those are the things that need legislative action.  And so he cannot do it alone, and so we need Congress to act. 

And if you think about assault — an assault weapons ban, we know, when we saw — when the President was involved in 1994 to get that done, we saw — we saw gun violence go down.  And when it sunset 10 years later, it went back up. 

So we know what could work.  And that’s why you continue to hear the President calling on Congress to take action.

Q    So — but you’re not announcing new actions now?

And is the, though, that the President has done everything he can himself?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the President is always going to find ways; so is his team.  So, here, we have the Domestic Policy Council.  You have other offices here at the White House.  You have the Department of Jus- —

We’re always going to find and figure out ways that we can take another step, outside of all of the historic steps that this President has taken, to announce another way to protect communities. 

But the President has done the work.  Now we need Congress to act. 

Q    And just to follow up to Ken’s question to Kirby before about the press conference on this trip.  It’s a four-day trip to two countries.  You know, why can’t the President take questions from the press?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Right now, we just don’t have anything on the books for a press conference at this moment.  The President always loves to take your questions — shouted questions.

Q    Apparently not.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — but no.  Look, when it comes to these types of events, as you know, being the President of — of — at one point — of the association, there are — these are relationships that we have — right? — with — with these countries.  So when it comes to two-plus-twos or anything like that, clearly that is not just on us, that is also on the country that we’re visiting. 

But as far as a standalone press conference, I just don’t have anything to share at this time.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q    Beyond seeking a stay, how do you plan to respond to the abortion ruling?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I don’t want to get ahead of the courts here.  As you know, that’s something that we’re very mindful of.  The Department of Justice were quick to act — as you know, as you mentioned, the stay.  And — and we’re going to continue to move forward in that fashion.  It probably is going to go up to the Supreme Court, which we feel pretty confident that we’re going to win. 

But we’re going to be very clear here.  And I talked about this at the beginning — the disinformation, misinformation that’s out there.  Mifepristone is still very much available, still very much available right now for women who need it or providers who need it at this time. 

And so, look, this is a President and an administration that’s going to continue to fight — continue to fight to make sure that women have the healthcare that they need to make sure that they make their own decision when it comes to their — when it comes to their own body. 

And I also mentioned this too: This is — what we’re seeing currently, right now, is part of — is part of the plan, right?  It’s part of what we’ve been hearing from extreme MAGA Republicans in these different state — statehouses and, of course, national Republicans saying that they want a national abortion ban.  This is part of this. 

And so, they’re — they’re going to continue to take those actions.  I think we’ve seen more than 300 pieces of legislation coming out of statehouses to take away a woman’s freedom, a woman’s right to make her own decision — a decision that should be between herself and her doctor. 

And so, look, the President is going to continue to fight for — for people’s freedoms.  It’s been — in this particular, women’s freedom. 

And we saw — we saw what — what the American people said during the midterms.  Like, they want us to continue to do that, continue to fight for their freedom.

Q    Can I just confirm on that?  So the administration is going to comply with this federal judge’s order?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we are going to always follow the law.  Always.  But doesn’t mean that we’re not going to fight.  It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to — you know, as you know, DOJ has continued to — has appealed this and will continue to fight in the courts. 

Q    And so will the administration then move to expedite reapproval of mifepristone?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I — look, what I can say is that, right now, DOJ has already stayed, as — as Steve mentioned, and is fighting — is fighting to maintain the stay and ultimately win the case, as we believe, in the Supreme Court. 

And so we’re going to let DOJ do their work — the Department of Justice do their work. 

Q    But can the FDA reapprove this quickly?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what I can say is that we stand by the FDA’s approval of mifepristone.  And we are prepared for a long, legal fight.  That’s what I can say from here.  That’s what we are committed to do — to doing for the providers who are making sure that this is available to women and also for women out there. 

But again, it’s still available.  And as we know, this is a decision — is stayed for seven days, from — starting from this past Friday.  And so the status quo remains.  But again, we are ready to fight.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  AOC suggests that the administration should just ignore the ruling.  And she said that, quote, “We know that the executive branch has an enforcement discretion.”  Is that true?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So this is similar, I think, to what Terry was asking me.  Look, we understand the frustration, right?  We get the frustration regarding this decision.  Absolutely.  And that’s why we were quick to act.  That’s why you saw DOJ take action. 

We — basically what I said to Terry: We stand by FDA’s approval of mi- — mifepristone.  And we are prepared to have a legal — a long legal fight here.  That is our commitment to women out there.  That is our commitment to Americans across the country. 

But I’ll say this: You know, it is dangero- — it — but as a precedent — as a dangerous precedent is set for court to set aside FDA’s expert judgment regarding a drug safe — safety and efficiency, it would also set a dangerous precedent for this administration to disregard — right? — a binding decision.  So that’s what I’m getting to. 

But again, we are ready to fight.  This is going to be a long fight.  We understand this.  We stand by FDA’s approval of mifepristone, something — this is a pill that’s been around for more than 20 years — I believe 22 years. 

It’s — it’s — it is — it has been used in 60 countries.  So, of course, this is something that we are — we approve.  And we stand by FDA.

Q    But just to be clear, for people watching at home, who are listening to progressives saying, you know, the administration actually has an enforcement discretion and they could ignore this — you disagree with that? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So what I’m saying is there is a process in place for appealing this type of decision, and we will pursue that process vigorously — that’s what the American people can count on from the Biden-Harris administration — and do everything that we can to prevail in the courts.  That’s the commitment that we have. 

Q    Okay.  And to follow up on Zeke, you mentioned that the decision whether to hold a two-by-two here at the White House is made by both the administration as well as the visiting party.  But is the decision whether to have a press conference abroad, in Ireland, a unilateral decision, or are the Irish weighing in on that too?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I think I was very clear.  I said, when to comes to a press conference — a standalone press conference, which is — does not include the country.  We just — that is — we just don’t have a decision.  Well, we — just not going to happen.  It’s not in the books to happen on this trip.

Q    But it’s your decision alone, right? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a — it’s —

Q    The Irish aren’t weighing in?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, if it’s the press conference that the President is leading on his own, yes, it’s a standalone — that’s why I said a standalone press conference that is not happening on this trip.

Q    I — I’m just not hearing a reason why you’re not having one then, because —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look —

Q    — to not have one here, you’re saying it’s because it’s not just up to us?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I didn’t say that.  I said, when it comes to a two-plus-two —

Q    Right.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — regardless if we’re away or regardless if the country is coming here, we do have — that is a discussion that we have with the country, right?  That is a — a conversation that’s had.  And we do not do that unilaterally. 

So I was making a comparison.  I was laying out that process, which — I know every time a head of state visits or even if we go to another country, this question comes up of the two-plus-two.  And so I was just laying out the process, as I’ve done many times at this podium. 

I’m just saying, at this time, we do not have a press conference — a standalone press conference for this President.  I know — I know that it is of interest.  I’m just giving you the answer on that. 

Q    Thank you.

Q    And, Karine, did the White House ask HHS Secretary Becerra to clarify his comments on possibly ignoring the Texas order and saying everything is on the table when he was on the Sunday shows yesterday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I believe they put — I believe they put out a statement.  HHS put out a statement making — making that clear that the administration is not going to ignore a ruling.  So I’m going to just point you to the statement from HHS.

Q    And then, to be clear, you also mentioned you expect this could go up to the Supreme Court.  Are you suggesting that the White House supports the Department of Justice seeking an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court now while it is still trying to get it blocked?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not — I’m not suggesting that.

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just saying, ultimately, we believe we can win if — this case in the Supreme Court if necessary. 

But this is something that the Department of Justice certainly is going to go through their process.  What we’re saying is we’re prepared for a long legal fight, and that’s the promise that we can make to women — millions of women across the country right now.

Q    And can you share what, if anything, Vice President Harris is doing on this issue today or in the coming days, given her work on abortion access?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think you’ll continue to hear from the Vice President on this issue.  This is an issue that’s very important to her.  She has been very vocal on what’s currently happening on — especially when you see extreme Republicans taking — continuing to want to take away the rights of women when they make this important decision, you know, about their own body.  I’ve mentioned the 3- — 300-plus pieces of legislation in state — that has come out of statehouses. 

She’s been very vocal.  She’s been steadfast on this, and I am pretty sure you’ll be hearing from her in the near future. 

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, we’re expecting the EPA to issue new tailpipe emission rules this week.  How do you expect those to go beyond some of the targets the President has made for getting new electric vehicles out in the open? 

And also just, how does he balance this need of having tougher emissions on one hand while, you know, the possibility this will raise costs for consumers?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m certainly not going to get ahead of an ongoing policy process.  Want to be careful here. 

But look, when it comes to climate crisis, it requires ambitious actions.  And the President has been delivering on those ambitious actions.  As you know, when he walked into this administration, he said climate change was one of the four crises that he believed his administration needed to deal with. 

So, his Investing in America agenda has already sparked over $100 billion in private sector investment in elec- — in electric vehicle charging and manufacturing.  Since 2020, the number of electric vehicle models has doubled, EV sales have tripled, and the number of EV charging posts is up 40 percent. 

So, look, this wouldn’t be the first time that someone has bet against this President, as you hear us say many times — or you hear him say about himself — and it certainly won’t be the last time.  He’ll continue to prove them all wrong.

When it comes to lowering costs for the American people, this is, as you know, something that the President — when you look at his economic agenda, when you look at his economic policy — lowering costs for the American people is something that is at the — at the — you know, at the center of that.  It is a priority for him.  And he’ll continue to certainly do that.

Go ahead, Brian.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just — as we sit here, we just now have another notice that there was another shooting in Louisville with one injured and one dead — unrelated. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    These two — let me drill down a little bit on what you’ve said.  I know the administration has taken action — the most that it can.  But has the action this administration has taken regarding gun violence in this country — including speaking to members of the GOP, inviting them up here to discuss the issue with other legislative leaders — what exactly has –because the, as you well know, the President has a great reputation for making deals.  He did it with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.  So what has he done specifically?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, Brian, first of all, as you know, I have not seen those reportings. 

Q    Yeah, it just came out.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I know — if that certainly is the case, certainly I want to say our hearts go out to the injured or — and their families.  And so, again, a devastating — another devastating day of shootings that we’re seeing in our communities. 

And this is why we continue to call on Congr- — Congress — Republicans in Congress to take action.  This is not okay.  Our communities need to be safer. 

I’m going to get to your question. 

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Our communities need to be safer.  Our schools need to be safe.  There’s no reason that kids should be going to school and teachers should be teaching at schools and be worried about their safety, be worried about an active shooter coming into their school.  There should be no reason why places of worship should be concerned about that as they’re praying, as they’re — as they’re in their, again, place of worship. 

And so, this is devastating.  This is devastating to hear.  And we need to see some courage.  I’m going to keep saying that, because that’s what we need to see from Republicans in Congress. 

Now, to your question, there was a bipartisan piece of legislation that was passed just this — this past summer on gun violence, and it was called the Safer Communities Act, as you know.  And so that was something — because of this President, because of this administration — was able to bring both sides together — the other side, in particular — to come up with this piece of legislation that is now into law, clearly. 

And it was the first major piece of legislation on this issue that we had seen in 30 years.  And so that is something that the President was able to do. 

But as — as grateful as he was to both Democrats and Republicans for that piece of legislation, we need to do more.  And he’s going to continue to do that. 

Q    So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And to your other part of your question.

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we have our White House offices here, including the Leg Affairs Office, who’s in continued — who’s continuing to have conversations with members of Congress.  I don’t have anything to read out on particular conversations on any issues.  But there are tons of issues, as you know, that we are always having conversations about when it comes to Congress. 

But, look, we’ve taken action.  This is a President who has taken historic actions on this issue.  He’s not sat back.  He’s not put his feet on the table and let the issue pass him by.

Q    And — but is he calling them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He’s taken action.

Q    Is he inviting them up here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But he — but he has.  He has.  We were able to do a bipartisan piece of leg- — piece —

Q    I mean recently. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we have done the work.  There’s been a — there is a bipartisan piece of legislation that was signed into law by this President this past summer.  And he has done a historic amount of work even recently — just when he was — the last time he visited the West Coast — to deal with this issue, to deal with this very issue. 

Q    Oh, and —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to keep going.

Q    — finally, anytime he’d like to show up here in this room, I’m sure all of us — I can speak for all of us saying, we’d welcome here — him here at any time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I understand.  

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  There have been —

Q    (Inaudible.)  (Laughs.)

Q    There have been several questions about presidential travel. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    About five weeks ago, President Biden said that he would be going to East Palestine, Ohio, at some point.  Does the President still feel the need to visit Ohio, and when will he go?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, the President — I mean, once — the President said it, so I will keep — keep that — he keeps to his word.  I don’t have a trip to — to lay out or preview for you at this time.  But I’m going to just let the President’s word stand. 

Q    So we should expect him there at some point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  If he says — if the President said he’s — he’s expecting to at some time, the President means what he says.  I just don’t have a trip to preview at this time.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I wanted to follow up on electric vehicles.  You mentioned the investments.  Some of the companies investing in EV battery plants here in the U.S. are Chinese companies.  Is the administration doing anything to stop China from cashing in on green energy goals?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share on China, specifically as it relates to electric vehicles. 

As you know, the President is committed to this.  You see that in his Inflation Reduction Act.  You see that in the bipartisan — the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which — which is very — very keyed in on making sure that his gen- — his agenda, dealing with cima- — climate crisis is dealt with.  So, don’t have anything on China. 

You know our — where we stand on China.  We want competition, not conflict.  That’s where we have always moved with China.  You heard my colleague speak specifically on where that — those relation — that relationship is.

Just don’t have anything specifically on the elec- — electric vehicles.

Q    Do you support Chinese companies coming in and building EV plants in Michigan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I just don’t have anything specific as it relates to China and electric vehicles.

Go ahead, Jon.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Two questions, two different issues.  First of all, on the abortion pill case, you said earlier in the briefing that you believe that this particular case will get to the U.S. Supreme Court.  And you also expressed confidence that you’d win at the U.S. Supreme Court.  What gives you that level of confidence?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because this is — let’s not forget, we’re talking about mifepristone, which has been around for 20-plus years, which is — has — is also around in 60 different countries.  And it is something that FDA is allowed to approve.  They have approved this.  And we stand by the FDA when it comes — when it comes to this. 

And I said, if necessary — right? — we believe we will win — we will win this long fight if it goes to the Supreme Court, if necessary — if that’s what indeed occurs — because we are committed — we are committed to — to this issue.  We are committed to making sure that women have access to — to — to — to mifepristone, but also can make their own decision when it comes — when it comes to their own body, when it comes to this type of — of important reproductive healthcare decision that women should have.  It is their freedom.  It should be their freedom to have this.

Q    And then the second question has to do with the lack of a press conference during the President’s upcoming trip and the lack of press conference that we see in general from this White House. 

I represent a news organization that owns 113 television stations.  And a question that I’m often asked — and I don’t know the answer to, so I’ll ask you that question: Is the administration trying to protect the President from our questions?  Please answer that question if you could.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Absolutely not.  Absolutely not.

Q    Then why the lack of any interaction in a formal setting to have a press conference?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, the President takes shouted questions.  I —

Q    In a formal — in a formal setting.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I understand.  Jon, I understand.

Q    Yeah.  Okay.  Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I understand.  I have dealt with this question about three times already.  I understand it is — it is — it is the job of you all to ask this question to me.  Totally get that.  And that’s not a problem at all.

But certainly, the President many times has — has stan- — has stood in front of all of you, has taken questions on his own, because he wanted to see what was on — on your minds, he wanted to see what the questions you all were going to ask him, and he wanted to answer them directly. 

That has happened multiple times — many times during this administration.  And that will certainly continue to be.  When it comes to a formal press conference, I don’t have anything to share with you at this time.

Q    You recognize — just one last thing. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    Just to button it up.  You recognize that as it relates to prior administrations, the President’s predecessor, President Obama, President George W. Bush — I’ve been here long enough to have covered President Bill Clinton — this is not the norm.

The norm is we do get an opportunity, ask the questions to the President about domestic and foreign policy issues in a formal setting at some point, and you choose that point.  But we haven’t had that opportunity in quite some time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll say this: It is also unprecedented that a President takes as many shouted questions as this President has.  And he has.

Q    No.

Q    No, no, no, no.

Q    I covered the last administration, and I’ll tell you: Almost every day, up until —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, well, we’ll get —

Q    — the November 2020 election, Donald Trump took questions practically every day.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ll certainly — we’ll certainly get the data and share that with all of you.

I hear — Jon —

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — I hear your question.  I heard Zeke’s question.  I hear you.  I hear you on the press conference — on a formal press conference.  We get this probably every couple of months when you guys ask us about a formal press conference.  I don’t have anything to share with all of you at this time.  And — and I’ll just — I’ll just leave it there.

Go ahead, Jeremy.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A few moments ago, you reiterated the President’s support for an assault weapons ban.  But in his statement this afternoon, the President called for safe storage of firearms, universal background checks, and eliminating liability protections for gun manufacturers.  Was that an intentional omission —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — of the assault weapons ban, or is that a shift in strategy that we should be —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Not a shift in strategy at all.  We were just being mindful to the incoming information that was currently coming in from Louisville.  And so, at the time, we didn’t know what was exactly — we didn’t have all the information.

So we just wanted to be mindful to that specific — to that specific event, if you will, in Louisville.  But that — our — our commitment and our calling out for the ban of assault weapons has not changed.

Q    And in that statement, the President lays out the pretty dire consequences of inaction, talking in particular about Republicans.  We hear from the President when these shootings happen, obviously, but does the President feel that he has made full use of the bully pulpit to match the dire consequences that he’s warning of?  I mean, is there not more than he could be doing to lobby Republicans to bring this issue to the floor every day?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would say this, Jeremy: Any time the President uses the bully pulpit, he is talking directly to the American people and, I would say, directly to Congress as well.

This is a President that has been committed to this issue not just as President, but as Vice President and also as senator.  He talked about the 1994 — the assault weapons ban that he led on, and what we saw — the data that came from there and what we saw in those 10 years before it — before it — it sunset.

And so, I’ve said this many times before today in this briefing room, and I’ll say it again: This is a President that has taken historic actions when it comes to gun violence and protecting communities and really dealing with an issue that is an epidemic — an epidemic.

Sadly, when we saw the shooting in Nashville, he spoke on it about three times, on that issue.  And I would — I would easily argue: When the President speaks, people listen and want to hear what he has to say.

Q    Does he feel he’s doing the most he possibly can?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think when you’ve made historic — taken historic action on — on this — on an issue from the bull- — from — from the executive — from the executive — this executive branch, and trying to find — telling your — telling your teams to do everything that you can to figure out what else can be done, that is a President that is active, that is taking action. 

And — and, you know, it is — there’s a legislative process to this.  We need Congress to take action.  And that’s where we are.

Charlotte.  I forgot about you, Charlotte.  I’m so sorry.

Q    Can I just jump in on the abortion ruling real quick first?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Yeah, really quickly, and then we have a guest.

Q    So what kind of guidance has the White House been providing to states and to medical providers in the wake of this ruling on mifepristone?  And — and what is your message generally to women around the country, to medical providers who may not be sure what the future of this drug is and may have concerns?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what we have said — taking your last question first — is — what we have said is: Reproductive rights is a fundamental freedom.  It is a fundamental right, and it is a medical decision that should be made between a man — a woman, pardon me, and her doctor without government interference — again, without government interference.

And so, we’ve been clear about that.  A vast majority of Americans agree with us.  We saw the outcomes of the midterms. 

But, again, Republican officials — I’ve said this over and over again — in the statehouse across the country have — have introduced more than 30 — 300 bills restricting abortion so far this year alone. 

So what we have done is we’re coordinating with state leaders who are fighting to protect reproductive rights.  And we’ll continue to do that as we’re going through this fight.

Go ahead, Charlotte.  We have Charlotte in the room here from Kids- — KidScope Media.  Welcome, Charlotte.

Q    Hi.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know you have a question for me.

Q    First off, thank you for hearing my question.  And recently, the number of children with mental health issues is on the rise.  How is the White House positioned to help specifically kids?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, mental health issues affect so many people, including children, as you just laid out, and kids across the nation.  And the COVID-19 pandemic, sadly, disrupted routines and — and relationships and led to increases in social isolation, anxiety, and learning challenges. 

And so, you know, this is something that the President and the First Lady certainly has led on this issue.  And — and we’ve — they’ve done that — we’ve done that by making sure that schools have the ability to have extra resources to hire social workers, to hire psychologists, to hire what is needed — experts — so that children in schools, in particular, have an opportunity to talk to someone.

And so, this is — certainly has been — when it comes to national mental health, this is a strategy that the — that this administration has taken very, very seriously.  And he believes that, you know, making sure that a kid’s mental health and they have the services that they need is important. 

And it’s okay to ask for help.  It is okay.  It doesn’t — it is not weakness to ask for help.

And so, that’s why we’ve put together this help hotline.  Call 988.  And we are telling — you know, we’re telling people: If you are having a hard time and you need someone to talk to, call 988.  You can call them.  You can text them.  And there are experts who are going to be there to help you.  And so, it is — this is a — and it’s 24 hours, seven days a week.

This is such a critical question, an important issue.  So thank you so much for asking the question, Charlotte.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Picking up on what Jeremy was asking, a couple questions.  One, when did the President find out about the Louisville shooting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He found out this — this afternoon or this morn- — late — late morning.

Q    So before or after the Easter Egg Roll?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t remember the exact timing, but he was certainly briefed on this by his senior staff.  I can’t tell you exactly the timing because it’s been a wild day.

Q    And has he reached out today to Mitch McConnell or Rand Paul or any other members of the Kentucky delegation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As you know, this is a President that regularly reaches out to leaders and elected officials in the state.  I just don’t have anything to read out to you as far as any calls that have been made. 

But certainly, the President was briefed earlier today.  I just don’t have a specific time to outline.

Q    And you’re not aware of whether he’s spoken to any other Republican lawmakers, consider- — considering he also
raised the issue of Republicans and Congress need to act?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, totally understand the question.  I just don’t have anything to read out to you at this time.

Q    And then, lastly, do you have an update on when the President might visit Nashville, where another mass shooting recently occurred?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as you know, the First Lady went to Nashville for the vigil, and she clearly represented the administration and offered her condolences and support from the administration to the community and to the families that lost their three kids and — and three administrators.  A very, very sad, horrific day.

And as you know, this is a President that has visited many communities.  Think about Uvalde and those 19 kids and 2 adults that were murdered.  You think about Buffalo and the — at the grocery store, when everyday people, just on a Saturday — doing things that many of us do on a Saturday, go shopping — and they were gunned down.  And he visited there with the First Lady.

And so, don’t have a — don’t have a trip to read out to you.  But again, the First Lady was there just days after the shooting and offered her condolences and prayed with the family and supported the community while she was there on behalf of the administration.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, everybody.  Gosh, I’ll see you on the road. Thank you, everyone.

Q    Thank you.

3:27 P.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/04/10/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-national-security-council-coordinator-for-strategic-communications-john-kirby-10/

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originally published at Politics - Social Gov