July 18, 2024
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, January 4, 2024
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, January 4, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 1:12 P.M. EST MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, everybody. Good afternoon. Q Good afternoon. Q Good afternoon, Karine. MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. Hi, Weijia. (Laughter.) The President is tracking the tragic school shooting at Perry Middle and High School in — in Iowa. Our hearts break for the families of the victims […]

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, January 4, 2024 first appeared on Social Gov.

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:12 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, everybody. Good afternoon.

Q Good afternoon.

Q Good afternoon, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. Hi, Weijia. (Laughter.)

The President is tracking the tragic school shooting at Perry Middle and High School in — in Iowa. Our hearts break for the families of the victims in yet another act of senseless gun violence.

We are grateful for the brave first responders who are on the scene. And unfortunately, there is no longer an active threat to the school — I should say fortunately, not unfortunately.

Senior White House staff have been in touch with the governor’s office, and federal officials are working with local law enforcement to support their investigation. We will know more as they complete their work.

It’s only the fourth day in the year — in the new year, and we are already faced with yet another horrific school shooting. And the question that we ask is: When will enough be enough? The questions that families ask and the victims of families [families of victims] ask is: When will it be enough? When will enough be enough?

Our students and teachers deserve to know that their schools are safe spaces and to focus on learning, not duck-and-cover drills.

While the President and this administration have taken historic action to reduce gun violence, more must be done to keep our schools and communities safe.

Congress must act to enact universal background checks, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require safe storage of firearms, end the gun industry’s immunity from liability, and pass a national red flag law.

We cannot allow these tragedies to continue. We have to do something.

With that, as you can see, the Admiral is back with us in the room to discuss some new information we have today on Russia’s pursuit of ballistic missiles to enable its brutal war in Ukraine and answer some questions on that topic.

All right, Admiral.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Karine.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Q Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY: Over the course of five days around the New Year’s holiday, Russia launched repeated waves of aerial attacks against Ukraine. These massive bombardments used drones and missiles to strike cities and civilian infrastructure all across the country. Strikes reportedly hit a maternity hospital, a shopping mall, residential areas — killing dozens of innocent people and injuring hundreds more.

As Russia continues to launch these brutal attacks, the United States has new information to share about the support that Russia is receiving from third countries.

Due in part to our sanctions and export controls, Russia has become increasingly isolated on the world stage and they’ve been forced to look to likeminded states for military equipment. As we’ve been warning publicly, one of those states is North Korea.

Our information indicates that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently provided Russia with ballistic missile launchers and several [dozen] ballistic missiles.

On the 30th of December 2023, Russian forces launched at least one of these North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine. This missile appears to have landed in an open field in the Zaporizhzhia region.

And on January 2nd, Russia launched multiple North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine, including as part of its overnight aerial attack. We’re still assessing the impacts of these additional missiles.

We’re releasing a graphic here, which you can see behind me, that documents the launch of these missiles from Russia into Ukraine. And as you can see, the graphic shows the area from which Russia launched the North Korean-supplied ballistic missiles on those two dates as well as the impact location inside Ukraine of the missile that was launched on the 30th of December. And, as I said, we’re still assessing the impacts of the other additional missiles that were launched on the 2nd.

We expect Russia and North Korea to learn from these launches, and we anticipate that Russia will use additional North Korean missiles to target Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians.

These North Korean ballistic missiles are capable of ranges of approximately 900 kilometers. That’s about 550 miles.

This is a significant and concerning escalation in the DPRK’s support for Russia.

Now, in return for its support, we assess that Pyongyang is seeking military assistance from Russia, including fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment or materials, and other advanced technologies. This would have concerning security implications for the North — I’m sorry — for the Korean Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific region.

We’ve also said publicly that Russia is seeking to acquire close-range ballistic missiles from Iran. At this time, we do not believe that Iran has delivered close-range ballistic missiles to Russia. However, the United States is concerned that Russian negotiations to acquire close-range ballistic missiles from Iran are actively advancing.

According to press reporting, in September of 2023, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps — the IRGC — hosted Russian Defense Minister Shoigu in Iran and showcased its Ababil close-range ballistic missile and other missile systems. This event marked the first public display of ballistic missiles to a senior Russian official visiting Iran since February of 2022.

More recently, in mid-December, the IRGC Aerospace Force deployed multiple ballistic missile and missile support systems to a training area inside Iran for display to a visiting Russian delegation. We assess that Russia intends to purchase missile systems from Iran.

So, in response to Russia’s activities with Iran and North Korea, we are taking a range of steps with our allies and our partners.

First, Russia’s procurement of ballistic missiles from the DPRK directly violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. We will raise these arms deals at the U.N. Security Council alongside our allies and partners, and we will demand that Russia be held accountable for yet again violating its international obligations.

Second, we will impose additional sanctions against those working to facilitate arms transfers between Russia and the DPRK and between Russia and Iran.

Third, we will continue to release information to the public and expose these arms deals, as we are doing today, because we will not allow countries to aid Russia’s war machine in secret.

But here’s the bottom line. The most effective response to Russia’s horrific violence against the Ukrainian people is to continue to provide Ukraine with vital air defense capabilities and other types of military equipment. To do that, we need Congress to approve our supplemental funding request for Ukraine without delay.

Russia is relying upon its friends to replenish its military stockpiles and enable its war against Ukraine. Iran and the DPRK are standing with Russia.

Ukrainians deserve to know that the American people and this government will continue to stand with them. So, it’s critical that Congress meets this moment and responds by providing Ukraine with what they need to defend themselves. The time for Congress to act is now.

Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Colleen.

Q Thank you. John, can you talk a little bit about how you obtained the information? Where did it come from? And then, also, do you have any idea whether there are more the — the — that Ukraine or — sorry — that Russia has more from the DPRK coming as well? Or have they sort of exhausted DPRK and now they’re moving on to Iran — to Iran?

MR. KIRBY: So, on your first question, I’m — I have to be — and I think you understand — I have to be very careful here. We have been able to downgrade this information to provide to you today. As you know, intelligence is a mosaic, and we get information from many different sources that are corroborated and knit together to create the fabric that you saw today.

So, I’m not going to really be able to go into great detail about all the pieces that — that helped us put this together. But it was a wide range of intelligence sources over a period of time.

As for their inventory now, again, I want to be careful here, but we — I would just put it this way — that we — we haven’t seen anything that would tell us that Russia is not still reliant on munitions and missiles from — from North Korea. And, as you remember, we also downgraded some information months ago about their procurement of artillery shells.

So, this is a relationship that has been ongoing. And we’re obviously deeply concerned that it appears to still be in force. And that’s why we’re going to take those — those actions here at the — at the U.N.

Q And in regards to Iran, how close is Russia to obtaining or to purchasing missiles from Iran?

MR. KIRBY: All I can tell you is what I said at the top, which is we have not seen them consummate a deal for close-range ballistic missiles.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael.

Q Admiral, the in- — I think you said in your topper that you sort of attributed part of the reason that — that Russia is having to go to these sources to the success of American sanctions in — aimed at their domestic production. But in our — our reporting suggests that intelligent — that there is intelligence that the domestic production of missiles inside of Russia has largely recovered and, in fact, now the daily production of missiles inside Russia by Russia’s own manufacturing system has — now exceeds what it was prewar.

So, it — how much does the U.S. government believe they really need these North Korean and Iranian systems? Or is it just that that is the, sort of, more scary part, that — that they’re getting some different systems than they have the capability to build?

Or what’s — what — what difference does it make that they’re — that they’re getting them from North Korea if they have the production capabilities to do it themselves?

MR. KIRBY: Well, there’s a lot — awful lot there, Mike.

Q I’m sorry.

MR. KIRBY: It’s — so, first of all, it’s not just U.S. sanctions and export controls. It’s really an international effort to put pressure on his war-making ability. And we do believe it has been effective.

I mean, he — he’s now — he’s now able to produce Iranian-designed drones on Russian soil because of this deal he’s got with Iran. And as we’ve talked about, he’s going to countries like North Korea for additional munitions and missiles and artillery shells.

I can’t speak to the degree to which his defense industry has somehow managed to overcome the pressure. I would argue that we don’t believe that it has fully circumvented and — and been able to thrive under the international economic pressure that — that he’s under. We still believe that the export controls and the sanctions that we and our partners have put in place have had a detrimental effect on his ability — his defense industrial cap- — capacity.

That does not mean that he hasn’t tried to improve and increase that capacity. He has. We’ve talked about this many times. I mean, his war-making machine is still capable.

And to the last part of your question, it’s not — we’re not seeing anything that would tell us that these particular capabilities add something he doesn’t already have. He had — already had a pretty sophisticated missile capability before he decided to invade Ukraine, but it certainly is additive to his capability.

And as he tries to — again, without getting into a debate about how much he has or hasn’t improved his defense industrial base — as he certainly tries to recover from the pressure he’s under, this — these are additive elements to his ability to continue to hit civilian infrastructure.

It is, though, of a piece of a larger effort by — by Mr. Putin to weaponize the winter, to — to target specific civilian infrastructure and — and facilities to try to break the back of the Ukrainian people.

Q John, I want to go back to something you said yesterday. You said Hamas still has a significant force posture inside Gaza. And I’m wondering how you square that with the civilian casualties. I mean, if an estimated 22,000 people have died and you’re saying that Hamas still has a significant presence in Gaza, aren’t you essentially saying that this campaign is not effective?

MR. KIRBY: No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. First of all, we’re not — we’re not chipping in from the sidelines here and giving — and giving them a report card on all their operations.

You can — you can still be effective against the leadership of an organization and still have many members of the organization survive. They have gone after the leadership at various levels. And they will continue to do that.

But — but I don’t — I don’t see the dissonance there.

Q You don’t — so, you — you deny that the civilian casualties are disproportionate to achieving their objective of eliminating Hamas?

MR. KIRBY: We have been very clear about civilian casualties, Mary. Zero is the right answer. We want to see them do more to reduce the impact on the civilian population and to — and to protect innocent lives. I mean, we don’t want to see a single more civilian killed here.

Q I guess, when the civilian casualty outweighs the losses to Hamas this significantly, this drastically, if that many people have died and you still have a significant presence inside of Gaza, at what point do you say, “This strategy isn’t working”?

MR. KIRBY: That would be for the Israelis to speak to. This is their operation, not the United States’ operation. They would have to make those kinds of decisions.

I will tell you that they believe that they still have a viable threat by Hamas, that the Israeli people are still under a threat by Hamas — an organization that has vowed to do October 7th over and over and over again, that doesn’t believe that Israel should exist as a nation.

And so, they’re prosecuting against that threat. And we are continuing to talk to them about how they do that. Because, as Secretary Blinken has said, how they do it matters. And we want to make sure that they’re doing it effectively, clearly, against the leadership of Hamas, going after their ability to command, control, and resource themselves — at the same time, protecting innocent lives.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.

Q Thanks, Karine. John, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack in Iran. Is that the U.S. conclusion as well? And what is your analysis or the U.S. analysis, then, of ISIS’s strength and whether it’s increasing?

MR. KIRBY: I would — we have seen the — the public credit now that ISIS-K has taken for the attack in Iran. We’re certainly in no position to — to doubt that — that — that claim by — by ISIS-K.

And, I’m sorry, the second question was?

Q What your analysis is of the Islamic State’s strength given the fact that they were able to carry out that attack.

MR. KIRBY: Difficult to make a quantitative or qualitative assessment of their strength based on this event — this one event. I would just say what we said before, which is ISIS-K does remain a viable terrorist threat. Certainly, they are largely based out of Afghanistan. That’s where they — that’s where they headquarter themselves. And they continue to pose a viable terrorist threat to the people of Afghanistan and obviously to the region.

Q Is this, I guess, a sign that that threat is increasing? Is that level of threat going up?

MR. KIRBY: I — I just — yeah, Jeff, I don’t think we can make that call right now based on this one attack. It’s — you know, it would be imprudent to say, “Well, based on this one thing, that that means that they have exponentially improved their capabilities or their — their resourcing to a certain degree.” I just don’t think we’re at that point.

We’ve long said and maintained that they remain a viable terrorist threat.

Q Thank you, Karine. Thanks, John. Yesterday, you also said once again that you “expect” Israel to operate within the boundaries of humanitarian law. But the last time I asked you whether the U.S. had assessed whether it was doing that or not, you said you did not know of any assessments. Has that changed? And if it hasn’t, is it just an honor system that the U.S. will take Israel at its word that it is not breaking any war crimes?

MR. KIRBY: I think you’re conflating a couple of things. I — the question I got yesterday was about speculation that the Israelis took a — conducted an airstrike in Lebanon to kill a senior Hamas leader — accounts that I’m still not able to confirm.

And what I said was, they have a right and a responsibility to go after Hamas leadership. They’ve said that they’re going to do that. Same kind of tactic that we would and have approached against groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, but we expect them to do it in accordance with international law is what I said. And that was the context with what — with which I said it. It wasn’t about civilian casualties. It was about a — it was about a proposed airstrike — a reported airstrike in southern Lebanon.

Now, to the thrust of your question, we continue to talk to our Israeli counterparts about, again, the manner in which they’re conducting military operations, with the foremost in mind the need to protect innocent civilian life.

And as I have said before, we have seen them act in ways that demonstrate that they are — they are making an effort. That doesn’t mean that more can’t be done or more shouldn’t be done. We don’t want to see a single more innocent civilian life taken, but they have — they have — for instance, they have reduced their reliance on airstrikes. They have, in some cases, conducted operations at smaller unit levels so that they can be a little bit more precise. They have publicized areas where people can go to be safe from all com- — combat operations. And they have opened up humanitarian corridors.

So, they are making an effort. Again, doesn’t mean that more can’t be done.

Q So, I hear what you’re saying. And you, you know, continue to say you do a lot of talking to Israel. You do a lot of talking to partners in the region. Have you taken any action to this day to assess whether Israel is following the rules of war or not?

MR. KIRBY: I am not aware of any kind of formal assessment being done by the United States government to analyze the compliance with international law by — by our partner Israel.

Q Why not? And how can you be sure, then, that the weapons and resources that the U.S. is supplying is under those guidelines?

MR. KIRBY: I would just tell you that we have not seen anything that would — that would convince us that we need to take a different approach in terms of trying to help Israel defend itself.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Danny.

Q Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Admiral. There was a strike in Baghdad today that killed a military commander of a pro-Iranian group. Just wondering if you can confirm whether the United States was responsible for that strike or —

MR. KIRBY: I think I’m going to refer you to — to the Department of Defense on that — on that one.

But you — didn’t you asked me yesterday about Palestinian taxes?

Q I did not. (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY: Somebody did.

Q I’ll take an answer though. (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, but I — actually, if you don’t mind, I —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, go for it.

MR. KIRBY: I screwed this up — (laughter) — I screwed this up yesterday. I screwed this up yesterday.

So, I was asked yesterday about whether we think Israel should agree to the Norwegian plan that would allow taxes that Israel collects for the Palestinians to be transferred to the PA.

This is Palestinian money. We’ve been clear that those revenues should be released to the Palestinian people.

I got it wrong yesterday, and I just wanted to correct the record.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael.

Q Thank you, Karine. Just quickly, John, on the strike in Ukraine. Is the fact that the North Korean missile landed in an open field indicative of a failure of the missile of some kind?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I — I think it’s just too soon to know that. We don’t have any specific, like, data analysis that tells us it was a failure of the missile. It could have been a targeting issue. Could be a missile malfunction. It could — might be result of, you know, poor operate — operational factors that — whether or not the — the crew was properly trained how to — how to fire. We just don’t — we just don’t know.

I mean, thankfully, all it did was put a hole in a field. But I would remind that on the 2nd of January there were additional, multiple North Korean ballistic missiles fired into Ukraine. And, as I said in my opening statement, we’re still doing the assessment on — on the damage that they caused.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, J.J.

Q On the attack — or on the warning to the Houthis from that list of nations, can that be read as anything other than threatening to attack in Yemen?

MR. KIRBY: It’s a pretty clear statement of how concerned we and our 12 other partners are, particularly about what the Houthis are doing in the Red Sea. We don’t telegraph our punches one way or another. But we take these attacks very, very seriously, the impact that they’re having on international commerce and — and free shipping. And we’re going to keep doing what we need to do to protect our interests.

Q Is there anything you can tell us on what the menu is of the list of consequences that could be possible?

MR. KIRBY: I’m not — just not going to get ahead of where we are right now. Again, I think — I think that was a pretty clear statement about our interests and about how seriously we’re taking this — this threat. And, as the statement said, the Houthis will be held accountable for the consequences.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Jacqui.

Q Thank you, Karine. John, Iran made two transactions withdrawing from the previously frozen funds in Oman. What were those transactions for?

MR. KIRBY: I don’t have the details on that, Jacqui. You’re going to have to let me get back to you on that.

Q Okay. I let the office know before that I was looking for this question, so I hoped to get one today.

MR. KIRBY: Sorry.

Q Okay. I’ll come back to you with that then.

MR. KIRBY: Sure, of course.

Q More broadly, I guess, you know, is the administration at all reconsidering its decisions to finance Iran indirectly by allowing these sanctions waivers to go forward given the pro- — the level of proxy attacks that we have seen?

MR. KIRBY: To finance — or you mean by the — from —

Q Well, there’s —

MR. KIRBY: From the —

Q It’s for humanitarian aid, right?

MR. KIRBY: Exactly, yeah.

Q But we had these two transactions I’m talking about, and, you know, I’m hoping we can get an answer on what they were for. But the Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes was testifying about this to a House subcommittee and said that any details, you know, about those transactions would have to be provided in a classified setting. You know, why would we need to have that information be behind closed doors when that money is supposed to only be for humanitarian purposes? It should be, you know, transparent, I would — I would think.

And I know the administration also, sort of, quietly reversed its decision to allow, you know, withdrawals from the $6 billion that was freed up from the prisoner swap. But after that decision, the $10 billion — the waiver was extended for the $10 billion. This was money that was payments for electricity in Iraq.

So, anyway, given the level of proxy attacks and the availability of these funds, is the U.S. reconsidering these sanctions waivers?

MR. KIRBY: With the caveat that I am going to have to get back to you on whether or not there’s actually been some sort of procurement request by the Iranians for the humanitarian assistance — again, just don’t still know the answer to that.

So, with that as a caveat, I would tell you that, again, none of that money goes to the Iranian regime and none of it goes to the mullahs.

It is — it is — if it has been — if it has been allocated against, it would go to approved vendors that would purchase food, water, medicine, agricultural products, and then ship that directly into Iran for the benefit of the Iranian people.

And — and this — really, what your question kind of goes —

Q Is that still appropriate, though, given the behavior of the state right now? I mean, we’ve topped the briefing with this news about —

MR. KIRBY: Our issue is not with the Iranian people. And it’s difficult to square having — anybody having a problem with the Iranian people getting food, water, medicine, and agricultural products so that they can subsist.

It’s not as if — and this is where I was getting to in the fungimil- — fungibility argument, which is kind of what your question is getting to. It’s not as if the mullahs are sitting around thinking, “Well, how can we make the lives of the Iranian people better? Let’s get them more food, water, medicine.” They’re not making that choice.

What they’re doing is investing in — in missile technology and helping Ukraine kill innocent — I’m sorry — helping Russia kill innocent Ukrainians.

So, it’s not — you know, the fungibility argument just doesn’t stand up. It’s not like it frees up money that they were — that they now — that they were going to use on food and water that now they’re going to go buy missiles with. They’ve been — they’ve been focusing —

Q Your critics would say that’s exactly what it does. (Laughs.)

MR. KIRBY: Well, and I would argue that the critics are incorrect. It’s the — the mullahs, the regime in Iran has been doing that consistently over many, multiple presidential administrations, Republican and Democratic.

They mean to have — they have hegemonic ambitions in the region, and they are a destabilizer in the region. And they have been investing a lot of money into advanced military capabilities to try to push forward that vision. It’s not as if they’ve been prioritizing the Iranian people.

And this money — these funds are designed for the Iranian people —

Q One —

MR. KIRBY: — and for their benefit only.

Q One very last question. Can the administration name a single lawmaker who has called to reduce the number of Border Patrol agents?

MR. KIRBY: A single lawmaker that has called for redu- — well, I —

Q To reduce the number.

MR. KIRBY: I would argue is — I think Karine has talked about this. I mean, in — the fact that they — they voted down proposed legislation that would, at the President’s urging, increase the number. So, just by — just by dint of the sheer numbers and the votes, the House Republicans have said they don’t favor increasing the number of border agents.

And you heard Speaker Johnson down at the border yesterday that — that they’re not interested in moving forward on the President’s national security supplemental, which had $6 billion in there, much of it designed to get us another 1,300 border agents.

Q But this line about the 2,000 Border Patrol agents being eliminated, I think that’s a reference to the House DHS appropriations bill, which was obviously not taken up by the Senate. They had a CR. But that very bill — I mean, Republicans say that actually would have increased the number of Border Patrol agents because it was going to eliminate funds for climate change and clean energy programs.

I mean, the White House even issued a statement at that time saying that those cuts to those programs would be, you know, unpalatable to the President. But this is sort of the first time I’ve been hearing this claim about eliminating 2,000 Border Patrol agents, painting a picture like we’re short 2,000 at the border when, in fact, that didn’t happen.

MR. KIRBY: When — when proposed legislation has additional border agents in it and — and House Republicans vote it down, I’m not sure how else you want to take that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Go ahead.

Q In the back, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, give me one second.

Go ahead.

Q On Ukraine, what options has the White House or the administration reviewed to get aid to Ukraine if Congress can’t deliver on the supplemental request? And as these talks are ongoing, what conversations is the U.S. having with its allies who are also supporting Ukraine? Is it creating any concern on their part if Congress can’t deliver on the $60 billion?

MR. KIRBY: Without question, our allies and partners are watching what we do here. U.S. leadership matters. It matters a lot when it comes to being able to support Ukraine.

Now, they’ll have to make their own decisions. They’re sovereign nations too. As they have over the last two years, they will going forward.

We obviously want to be able to continue to support Ukraine for ourselves. We certainly want to see our allies and partners be able to do that as well.

But they can — only they can speak to the degree to which they’re going to be willing going forward based on what we do. But the whole world is watching what we do.

You know who else is watching is Vladimir Putin and President Xi in Beijing. They’re watching too whether or not the United States really will prove to be a reliable partner.

Now, as to your first question, as I said yesterday: We delivered — or announced the distribution of the final security assistance package for which we had replenishment money left to provide on this 27th of December. There isn’t any more money to do that.

Now, I’m not going to get ahead of where we are and speak about hypotheticals or branches that we might try to pursue going forward, but we need this money. The — the answer to this problem, as I said in my opening statement, is Congress acting on the supplemental request so that we can continue to help Ukraine defend itself.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Anita.

Q Thank you so much. A quick question on the conflict in the Middle East. Does the administration believe that the blast in Tehran is linked to efforts to widen the Gaza war to the broader Middle East? And I ask the same question about the U.S. strike in Baghdad that we reported today.

MR. KIRBY: On the U.S. strike, I’m going to refer you to the Department of Defense. I’m not in a position to speak to that specifically.

I don’t — I haven’t seen anything that — that indicates there’s a direct link to what’s going on in Gaza and — with the attack in Iran on the anniversary of Soleimani’s death. I just — I haven’t seen anything tangible that would tell me that there’s a link there.

Q And then, while Ukraine waits for a replenishment of its air defense systems, are you worried that Russia could destroy some of its batteries, like the Patriots and the NASAMS and whatever they’re called. And — and how do — is that a priority to replenish them once you get the funding?

MR. KIRBY: We — we would absolutely prioritize air defense capabilities with additional funding that we — that we expect to get for Ukraine and we hope to get for Ukraine, yes. Air defense would be top of the list.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nadia.

Q Thank you. On Iraq. John, how do you balance going after militias who threaten the U.S. presence within the coalitions in Iraq with a diplomatic standoff with the government that considered a partner, since they accused the U.S. of violating sovereignty after going after the Nujaba Movement today in this strike?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I can’t speak to the specifics of this particular strike. I would just tell you that, first of all, we’re grateful for the continued support that we get from the government in Iraq. We are in advise-and-assist capacity only to help Iraqi security forces continue to go after a still-viable ISIS threat in Iraq.

And — and that partnership continues. And unlike — unlike Iran and the IRGC, we actually respect Iraqi sovereignty. And we take that seriously.

You know what else we take seriously? Defending the lives of our men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, at Iraq’s invitation, to help them get better against this terrorist threat. We take that seriously too.

We have a right and a responsibility to make sure that they are well defended. And as the President has said, we’ll continue to do what we have to do to protect our people.

Q And one more. You said that Israel conducts this war and you want to see zero civilian casualties. Many believe that, without the U.S., Israel cannot conduct this war, because you support the military, you shield them at U.N. Security Council. So, you have huge leverage over the Israelis and how they should conduct this war, especially that we’ve seen Cabinet ministers attending a War Cabinet in Israel, which we haven’t seen before with other allies.

So, would you say that you actually can help to push more to reduce the number of civilian casualties, to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza, considering that aid organizations are saying that, by February, Gazans are facing famine — famine in the 21st century?

MR. KIRBY: First, let me say we’re very mindful of the humanitarian crisis that exists in Gaza, whether it’s food, obviously medicine, water. And that is why, to your specific question, we have worked hard since the beginning of this conflict to talk to the Israelis about how they’re conducting these operations, to lead the world, literally, in increasing humanitarian assistance inside Gaza now.

Now, there’s two gates open: Rafah and Kerem Shalom. That’s not by accident. That’s because the American — our American diplomatic efforts have done so much to get those gates open. And the trucks continue to flow. Not as much as we want, but they are.

We’re leading the world in terms of trying to make sure that we can alleviate that humanitarian suffering in Gaza. And that takes a lot of tough conversations sometimes, sometimes with our Israeli counterparts. But we’re not shying away from that.

Secretary Blinken is literally on his way back to Israel today, as we speak, to have these continued conversations with our Israeli counterparts.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Emel.

Q Thank you, Karine. Thank you, John. About Chinese spy balloons. Taiwan Defense Ministry stated yesterday that they spotted several Chinese balloons over the island. Does the White House have any reaction? Also, are you concerned about election interference, as the election is approaching in —

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I’m not in a position to confirm reports about balloons over Taiwan. I’d certainly refer you to — to officials in Taiwan and — and to Beijing to — to speak to that.

We obviously support the democracy and the democratic institutions of Taiwan, and we want to see free, fair, open, transparent elections there. And we’re certainly mindful that outside actors could try to interfere. And we continue to — to urge anyone outside Taiwan not to interfere in — in their ability to have a free, fair democratic election.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jake.

Q Thank you, Karine. Happy New Year, Karine. Happy New Year, Admiral. On a somber note, Kfir Bibas, the youngest hostage being held captive in Gaza, turned one yesterday in captivity. So, Kfir, wherever — wherever you are, (speaks Hebrew.) Happy birthday. (Speaks Hebrew.) We’re all praying for you.

I have two questions about the recent U.S. intel report that came out regarding the Shifa Hospital being used as a Hamas command and control center. First of all, can you share with us what new information has come to light now that we didn’t already know back in November when the Israelis took control of the complex?

MR. KIRBY: I’m not aware of any new information that — that has come to light since the Israelis — since the Israeli operation at Al-Shifa.

Q So, this recent intel assessment is only confirming what we already knew then?

MR. KIRBY: It is.

Q Okay. And my second question is: What’s your reaction to U.S.-funded agencies like UNRWA that have had a presence in these hospitals, that have had schools that is being alleged to have been used as stockpiles for weapons? Is this — does this make them complicit in any way? How does the administration view this? And is there any way that you plan on adjusting your strategy moving forward as far as dealing with UNRWA and other such agencies?

MR. KIRBY: UNRWA, the relief a- — U.N. Relief Agency does important work. In fact, they’re doing a lot of heavy lifting right now in terms of trying to get food, water, medicine to the people of Gaza, all up and down the Strip. They’re doing a lot of work, and they’re doing it in harm’s way — very much so in harm’s way.

And you can’t hold them accountable for the depredations of Hamas and the way Hamas uses civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, to — for command and control, for storage of weapons, for the holding of hostages.

Q Shouldn’t that, at the very least, raise the alarm if their own facilities are being used in the military —

MR. KIRBY: Well, look, I’ll — I’ll let the U.N. speak to their agency and what — and what alarms they want to raise or not. We —

Q We’re — we gave them a billion dollars.

MR. KIRBY: They do good work in Gaza, and they are important to helping get the humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. And we’re grateful for that work that they’re doing, very much in harm’s way.

I will let them speak to whatever concerns they have over Hamas’s activities and the degree to which that they feel obligated to speak out or not.

It is not a — it’s not some state secret here that Hamas hides itself in hospitals and schools and digs tunnels under residential complexes and neighborhoods. I mean, this is what — this is what the Israelis are up against, a group that absolutely doesn’t abide by the laws of war and has no compunction about putting civilian lives in greater danger.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, we have to wrap it up. Go ahead.

Q If I could ask you very quickly, John, about the U.S. service member’s mother and uncle who were safely freed thanks to a rescue operation from Gaza that happened in the last several days. I know the U.S. military was not directly involved in this. Can you tell us what role the U.S. played in any way, how this came to be, how they became — the White House became aware of the situation? What, if anything, can you tell us about those circumstances?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, Peter, I will — first of all, we’re glad they’re out. I would — I’d couch this more as part and parcel of an ongoing effort that we have had working with Israeli counterparts and the Egyptians to allow for safe passage of Americans out of Gaza. I mean, this is part and parcel of that — that larger effort.

Q So, this being related to a U.S. service member didn’t make it any different than any other American you would be trying to get out? Because the moth- — it’s not clear. I think the uncle was a U.S. citizen. It’s not clear that the mother was. I just didn’t know if there was any unique circumstances here because of that.

MR. KIRBY: No, I mean — I mean, certainly considered them — for all intents and purposes, of course, considered them Americans, and we’re glad that they’re out. There was no U.S. military involvement here. This wasn’t a — some sort of a special operation to — to get them out.

Q Understood. And if I could ask just one other separate question. Would the U.S. support Israel if it pursued and killed members of Hamas leadership in another country within the bounds of international law, say if it happened in Qatar — Qatar?

MR. KIRBY: I don’t want to get into specific hypotheticals here. We could go down —

Q But you said they have the right and responsibility to do it, as long as it’s within international law. So, would that also apply to Qatar?

MR. KIRBY: We could go down a lot of rabbit holes here, Peter. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. As I said, they have a right and responsibility to go after Hamas leadership. Our expectations are that they’ll do that in accordance with international law.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Andrew, you have the last question.

Q Can you just add a little bit more detail on — on Russia? Can you say how many ballistic missiles Russia is hoping to get from Iran?

MR. KIRBY: These are close-range ballistic missiles that you’re talking about?

Q Yeah.

MR. KIRBY: I don’t have that level of detail. We — we — again, we don’t believe a deal has been consummated.

Q Right.

MR. KIRBY: So, it’s difficult to get into too much detail beyond that.

Q And you said that there are several — that Russia has received several ballistic missiles from North Korea. How many are remaining that, you know, can still be shot into Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, that’s the question — sort of a similar question to what I got before. I’m not at liberty to go beyond the information that I was able to give you at the top here.

Okay?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Admiral. Appreciate it.

Q Thank you, John.

Q Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Thanks, guys.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Admiral.

All right. Colleen, you want to reset us?

Q Yes. Okay. So, on Senator Menendez, from yesterday. Does the President believe that the Senator should have any access to sensitive information given the gravity of the allegations against him? And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, as you just said, this is serious. This situation is very serious, and we have said that many times before. We think it is important — right? — that he did, indeed, step down from the chairmanship.

I’m just not going to get beyond that. I want to be really careful here. But, again, we see this as very serious, and we think that it’s — it’s the right thing to do that he stepped down from his chair.

Q As the leader of the party, should the President be calling for the senator’s resignation in general?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get beyond what I just said. And what we believe — as far as anything else, whether it’s resigning or anything else that’s related to Senator Menendez and his role and him as a senator, obviously, in Congress, that’s something for — for the Senate leadership to decide.

Q Okay. And then, on the school shooting in Iowa, I wondered if you could talk about anything the White House has upcoming on gun safety or gun control. And what more can the White House be doing this year as we’re looking at another shooting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look — and I — and I stated in — in — in the top how we’re just a couple of days in. Right? We’re just a couple of days in into the new year, and we’re talking about another shooting. And that is heart-wrenching, and that is heartbreaking.

And, as I stated at the top, enough is enough. And we’re going to continue to — certainly to — to call on Congress to act. Obviously, Congress did act in a bipartisan way, passing the first comprehensive piece of gun — anti-gun-violence legislation that the President signed.

And so, we are happy that we got there. And the President — obviously, he’s taken more action than any president in his first two years, signing more than two dozen executive orders to deal with this — this epidemic that is the number-one killer of our kids.

And so, look, we have to keep doing the work. And what I can say is, just last month, we hosted the largest-ever White House convening of state legislators to discuss actions that they can take to end this epidemic of gun violence.

And so, we also announced the Safer — the Safer States Initiative to drive additional progress from investments in gun — in gun-crime prevention and intervention, to commonsense laws to keep guns out of the dan- — out of dangerous hands. And so, we’re going to keep doing that.

And this is — again, this is a president that has taken unprecedented action here. We’re always going to look for other ways to deal with this. We’ve started — obviously created the first anti-gun-violence office, which is incredibly important. It’s helping communities like — it’s going to help community like the community in Iowa. But also implement — we also have to implement these more than two dozen executive actions that the President signed into law.

Go ahead, J.J.

Q On the Child Tax Credit, would President Biden be open
to a tax deal that includes a child tax credit being expanded and renews the expired research tax credits?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, obviously, the President strongly believes that any bill that is out there in Congress that certainly cuts taxes for — ta- — taxes for big corporations must cut taxes for working people and families with children — right? — especially to reduce child poverty.

That’s why the American Rescue Plan, the first piece of legislation this president signed that only had Democrats’ votes on it, was so important, because it had that Child Tax Credit in it. And we — what we learned from that is it helped ch- — cut child poverty by nearly half.

And so, obviously, this is something that the President supports. And so, we’ll see. We will see what — what Congress brings forth.

Q So, the — the part about renewing the expired research tax credits, he also supports that (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I — that is something that I need to be really mindful and talk to our team here about that. I just don’t have anything beyond that.

But, obviously, this is something that is incredibly important to the President. We want to make sure that — what — what bill comes out — if there is a bill that comes out in this legislative ses- — session, it — as it gives tax cuts for big corporations, that it must also give tax cuts for our working families.

That is something that we have seen from this Congress in the last legislation, putting forth those types of bills. And so, that’s what the President would — would certainly want to see.

Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Karine. On the southern border. In an interview with CBS News, House Speaker Johnson said, “On his first day in office, President Biden came in and issued executive orders that began this chaos.” Did any of the administration’s policies contribute to the record number of border crossings?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is this. On his first day in this administration, the President put forth a comprehensive immigration piece of legislation to deal with a broken system. That’s what the President did — to deal with a broken system.

We are just a couple of weeks away of three years ago that that legislation that he put forward to Congress to actually deal with the issue. Right?

And so, that’s what I can say. The Pres- — President understands that there’s a problem at the border. He put forth, on his first day, something to deal with that problem.

And what we continue to see from Speaker Johnson and Republicans — House Republicans — I know Jacqui asked a question about something that I said yesterday. In May — and I’ll repeat it; I’ll repeat what I said yesterday — in May, House Republicans decided to vote on a bill that would cut 2,000 Border suppo- — Border Patrol agents at the border.

That’s what they did. That’s what they did. And they continue to obstruct and get in the way of trying to — of the President wanting to move forward with a supplemental that includes border security. They’re getting in the way of it. They’re — they are.

While Senate Republicans and Democrats in a bipartisan way are trying to find a way — bipartisan agreement to deal with border security, you have House Republicans who left. They left in the middle of December. And I think they come back next week. Maybe they’ll get some work done. Instead, they’re playing politics.

Q So, is that a no?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, what I can say is what the President has done. I’m not going to speak to data. I have not seen any data that would show this. So, certainly I can’t speak to that.

What I can say is the — the actions and what the President has done and how seriously he has taken this — on his first day, his first day — understanding that this system has been broken for decades. This immigration system has been broken for decades. Under a Republican president, under a Democratic president, it has been broken.

Q And as negotiations continue, are there any red lines for the White House when it comes to negotiating what Republicans are demanding when it comes to policy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m going to be — stay consistent here. I’m not going to negotiate from here, from the podium. I’m going to let folks who are negotiating — the senators — both on the Democratic side and, obviously, on the Republican side — who are who are negotiating this. Obviously, we have been involved. They’ve been talking through the holidays. We really appreciate their efforts here. We think we’re headed in the right direction.

And so, we’re going to — it is best from this podium to not get involved and not inject myself into the conversation. And so, we’re going to let them do their job.

Q Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q On House Republicans and getting this supplemental request passed. House Republicans have made clear to this point that they are not interested in signing off on a border deal anything short of H.R. 2, which they passed. So, is there any outreach from the White House to House Republicans to try to get the supplemental across the finish line and get a deal that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: They went home in December. They literally —

Q But it —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But no. But they really literally went home in mid-December. That’s what —

Q But is it a miscalculation by the White House to not be in touch with House Republicans —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re in touch —

Q — who are necessary to get this across the finish line?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re — we’re in regular touch with Senate Republicans who were at the table with us, with other Democrats in the Senate, having a real conversation —

Q So you’re not talking to House Republicans?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — about a bipartisan agreement.

I mean, they’re talking for themselves. They basically took action by leaving in mid-December while the — the Senate side was actually having conversation to deal with an issue. They’re playing politics. So, I’m going to let them — their actions are speaking for themselves.

We’re going to have a real conversation where the negotiation is actually happening in good faith with both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. And that matters. That matters.

And so, we think it’s going in the right direction. We want to continue to have those conversations. That’s been happening for some time now.

And so, let them — let them — we’ll let them put something forward. And we’ll — we’ll move from there.

Q Lastly, though, but if House Republicans are slamming White House immigration policies, why is the White House not in touch with those Republicans who, again, would need to approve of a deal to get the critical supplemental request that you’ve talked about passed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not saying that — I’m not saying that it’s — we’re not going to have — at some point we’re not going to have a conversation with House Republicans. That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that their actions have proven to everyone — to everyone where they stand on this.

So, we’re having a productive conversation with Senate Republicans and Democrats to find a bipartisan agreement, because we understand the system is broken. It’s been broken for decades — the immigration system. And that is important.

Let’s not forget, this is a president that has — that has b- — been able to come together with Republicans and put forth many hundreds of bipartisan agreements that — legislation that have been turned into — that he signed into law. That’s something that he understands how to do. His team understands how to get that done.

But, you know, House Republicans, again, they left in mid-December and have not returned to actually deal with this in a real way. Instead, they’re playing politics. That’s what we’re seeing.

I’m not saying that conversations are not going to happen. Obviously, we have to have the House be involved in this too. But right now, the conversations the — the conversation — productive conversations are happening in the Senate.

Go ahead.

Q Just based on that last answer, has there been a breakdown in the relationship between the White House and the House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I wouldn’t say there’s a breakdown of relationship. What I will say is just we’re calling out what we’re seeing. We’re calling out what we’re seeing.

I mean, it’s the facts. They left in mid-December. And who was left to continue to have the conversation as it relates to the border — right? — the border security was the Senate. And when we’ve had conver- — and we’re having conversation with both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.

Q I have two completely unrelated questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure, sure.

Q Apologies for — for —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.

Q — hogging time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No — no apologies. Go for it.

Q The — the President did have this lunch with historians, and I’m wondering if there are any details you can share about that. And also, like, what about this particular moment has him reaching out to historians?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has done this before.

(A reporter’s laptop audio can be heard.)

I hear something. Okay. I thought I heard som- — a voice. (Laughs.)

Q It was just — sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That was your — all right. No worries, Jacqui.

I thought I was hearing things, but I’m not.

Q (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I was like, “I’m the only person that’s hearing it? Okay.” (Laughter.)

Q It’s not just you.

Q It was me — in your head. Sorry. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Okay. You — okay. (Laughs.)

Okay. So, look, the President tends to — and he’s done this before. He’s met with historians before — ahead of a — of an important national moment, which we’re about to see, certainly, as it relates to January 6th. And he met with these historians — a diverse group of historians to hear from them, to hear directly from them on their thoughts about our democracy here in this country and abroad.

And the President felt it was incredibly important to hear from this diverse group of — of historians. And, again, he’s done this before. It’s not the first time.

And so — and also, I think this says a lot about how the President sees things more broadly. He believes in — in hearing a diverse — from a diverse group of people, hearing different voices on policy issues and certainly on something as important as our democracy. And that’s what — that’s what you essentially saw from this President yesterday.

Q And then one more thing.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q How concerned is the President about what appears to be a pretty botched rollout of the federal financial aid form? It was due to be out in October. Then it was a drop-dead deadline at the end of the year. Now, there’s this soft launch that is going quite poorly. And there’s, like, hundreds of thousands of American families trying to figure out paying for college.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I do want to take a little bit of a step back here and just lay out a little bit of what we’ve been able to do over the weekend.

So, the — as you stated, they initiated the soft lau- — launch — the Department of Education — with the goal of ramping up volume over time to monitor the site performance and create a better experience, obviously, for students and families. And so, this is consistent with what — us trying to put forward best practices. That’s what you’re seeing here.

And just the other night, more than 400,000 applications had been completed. So, that’s important. The application opened at 8:00 a.m. on that — yesterday, and it will be open for the majority of — of today, obviously.

And so, this better — a better application process will make college more affordable and a — and a reality for more students. That is what this administration fights for every day.

And so, obviously, the Department of Education could speak more specifically on — on details. But this is part of our best practices. We’re trying to — we’re trying to do — do our best to make this process easier for families and students.

And so, look, it’s going to take a little bit of time. Right? It is. But they’ve been working through it. The Department of Education has been working through this through the weekend. And so, we’re seeing — we’re seeing some — some better improvements here, and I think that’s important.

Q Maybe some folks who haven’t —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. I didn’t get — I didn’t get your — to you. Go ahead.

Q Could you give us some more information about the President’s talk tomorrow, his visit to Valley Forge, which was pushed up from Saturday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that last part?

Q It was pushed up from Saturday, because I guess we’re going to have a snow — snow (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, as — as you heard from the campaign — I just want to be careful because this is a campaign event, so I don’t want to get too — too far ahead of the President. Obviously, the campaign could share a lot more details about the trip tomorrow.

And as you just stated, it was meant for — for him to be there on the actual day of January 6th. Because of the weather — potential weather conditions, he’s going to be there tomorrow, on Friday.

So, what I will say is that — and the President has said this many times before — January 6th was an unprecedented, certainly, attack on our core — our core principles and our democracy and the rule of law in our Constitution. And so, this is something that the President takes very seriously.

And so — and let’s not forget, January 6th cost the lives of police, injured many police officers, and inflicted bodily harm on many people. It was a — it was a sight that was horrific. We saw a Confederate Flag flying in the halls of the Capitol. And that’s what we were dealing it — dealing with. It was disrespectful to our Constitution, an attack on our democracy.

And the President — and let’s not forget, these are values that we hold very close as a country, as a nation. And so, the President is going to continue to speak about this. He’s going to continue to be very vocal about this.

And so, certainly, you’ll hear that from the President. But I want to be really careful because it is a campaign political event, so I don’t want to get too far into it.

Q But why the choice of Valley Forge, as opposed to doing this —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He’ll speak more to that tomorrow. I’ll let him — I’ll let the President speak to that.

All right. Go ahead, Gerren.

Q Thanks, Karine. The N- — the NAACP and community leaders are decrying a ruling from a judge in Jackson, Mississippi — a predominantly Black city and the capital of Mississippi — that would allow state leaders to appoint a judge and prosecutors, as opposed to the residents being able to elect those — that — that judge and prosecutors. They say this is ra- — racial discrimination and an issue of democracy. Does the White House have a position on this ruling?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, it’s an ongoing litigation, so I want to be careful. We don’t comment on an ongoing litigations.

But while the federal appears [appeals] court temporarily halted this decision from moving for now, it’s important that every state respects the democratic process and the will of the people. That it is something that the President believes. And the denial of self-governance is an effort — is affront to the democratic values on which our nation was founded.

And so, the people of Jackson, certainly, like any other American across the country, they deserve to have their voices heard. That is important. That is something that the President believes, certainly, and also the Vice President and the rest of the administration believes.

But I — so, I will leave it there because as — as you know, the litigation is continuing.

Q And ahead of tomorrow’s job reports numbers that will come out tomorrow, the White House has touted a lot last — last year’s record-low Black unemployment rate. But that only tells one part of the story in terms of the Black economy. While Black wealth has increased, it — so has the racial wealth gap. Homeownership for Black Americans continues to be at just as low as it was in the 1960s, and the purchase of ho- — the price of homes is still pretty high.

Are there any indicators that the White House can point to that suggests that the economic conditions for Black Americans will improve this year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, I have a couple of indicators that I’m happy to go through with you. I’ll say this at first, though: The President has talked about investing in America. He talks about his Bidenomics plan and how it helps — helps all Americans and makes sure it doesn’t leave anybody behind.

And one of the things that — as part of that, one of the things that the President has done with his plan is make sure that we invest in Black communities. That is something that the President finds to be incredibly important so that we do not leave communities behind.

And you saw the President go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he visited a sm- — a Black small businesses and talked about how small businesses — Black small businesses have been essentially growing under this administration, and that’s important — and by millions — the numbers by millions, more broadly, on small businesses being created on this administration. So, that’s important.

So, a couple of things that — that — that we saw data. Because of — because of the American Rescue Plan that the President signed — the first piece of legislation that he signed, that only Democratics voted — Democrats voted for in Congress — we’ve seen a couple of things.

Over 2.5 million Black Americans have gained jobs, and the Black unemployment fell from 9.2 percent to 5.8 percent.

Black wealth is up at a record 60 percent since 2019. That’s something that you just stated in your question to me.

The number of Black households owning a business has more than doubled since 2019.

And Black business ownership is growing at the fastest pace in 30 years.

And something else too: There’s — two thirds of new clean energy jobs are in communities of color, including nearly 60,000 in Black communities.

And let’s not forget the insulin cap — right? — for our seniors that the President was able to get done under the Inflation Reduction Act. That’s going to have a huge effect on Black communities as well.

So, these are the actions that the President has been able to take through legislation — right? — very, very important legislative actions — that we have seen communities, like the Black community, be able to see an investment in their communities and also not be left behind like they have been for decades.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q Yeah, thanks. I want to ask you about electric vehicles. So, Ford today says that in 2023, last year, their EV sales accounted for 3.6 percent of their overall sales. GM sought — says that it only sold half of what their target was for EV sales. Any consideration to moving some of those EV — EV mandates back and let the technology and market preference catch up?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Ed, I’ll — I’ll say to you that we have seen 51 percent of an increase in EV sales — 51 percent. That’s the numbers, and that’s across the board. I — you know, that’s — that’s the data that we have — that we have seen. I’m sure you’ve seen that number as well.

And so, I think that’s — that’s pretty important. As we talk about climate change, clean energy, that’s important that we’re seeing such a boost in electric vehicles.

Q But when you look at the actual numbers, like GM sold 2.6 million cars and trucks in 2023; 76,000 of those were EVs. Ford sold 2 million cars and trucks; 73,000 were EVs. So, clearly about 96 percent of the consumer is saying that they don’t want electric vehicles. So, why not —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We saw — we saw a 51 percent increase in electric vehicles. That’s what we’ve seen, Ed. And that’s important to note.

Go ahead.

AIDE: We have time for one more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.

Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry.

Q No, no, no worries.

What’s the White House’s reaction to members of President Biden’s own administration protesting for the case of somebody at the Department of Education this week resigning in protest against the President’s policies on Israel and Gaza?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’ve spoken to this before. And what we’ll say is that people have the right to — to voice their opinion. We understand that these are times where, you know, people have — it’s an emotional time, and we understand that.

As it relates to — I think your — the Department of Education, I would — I know they put out a statement, so I would refer you to the Department of Education.

But that is something that we get. Like, people have opinions, they have thoughts. These are incredibly, you know, personal times for people. Right?

But I just — I’m just not going to say much more on — on each — each resignation or each — comments that people may have. I will just — on that particular one, I would refer you to Department of Education.

Go ahead.

Q Back on the President’s speech tomorrow on democracy. In a December AP poll, 8 in 10 Republicans said democracy would be weakened if Biden were reelected. And that was also the view of 56 percent of independents. So, is President’s speech tomorrow aimed at trying to convince Republicans and independents otherwise? Or is it more aimed at sort of rallying Democrats about how important an issue this is?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I appreciate the question.

Tomorrow is a political campaign event speech. So, I’m not going to get into the reasoning behind what the President is there for — right? — specifically on a campaign basis. I’m not going to get into his remarks or his speech. That is something that the campaign can deal with directly for — on this particular question.

What I can say more broadly of — what the President has said about January 6th and how it was an attack on our democracy, on our fundamental values; how it was unprecedented; and how we have to continue to speak out. And it is important to do so.

I can’t speak to your specific question about outreach or the campaign, anything related to the 2024.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q Thanks. Some hospitals in at least eight states have brought back some form of masking now due to rising cases of respiratory viruses, including the flu and COVID. Does the White House think more hospitals across the country should be considering that right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The masking piece?

Q Mm-hmm.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is — and we’ve been — always been very consistent on this. That is something that is localized or — that — or hospitals, communities, cities, states, they have to make their own decisions. That’s not something that we get involved in.

Q And what about Americans broadly now? There’s 31 states in the latest data that have high or very high levels of respiratory illness: RSV, flu, and COVID. What should Americans be doing? What’s the recommendation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, it is up to each and — each and every American to make their decision on what they want to do.

We have a range of tools. Right? That is something that we’ve been able to do these last three years for people to feel — to protect themselves from the impact of COVID — whether it’s a vaccine, whether it’s at-home testing, whether it’s treat- — and treatments. Right? All of these things are incredibly important.

So, there are tools available for folks. And we’re going to certainly — certainly encourage Americans to — to take those steps.

We’re not going to — it is up to them. It is up to them, as it relates to masking, what individual Americans want to do. That is not something that we’re going to regulate.

Q All the way back here. What do you say, Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q Unbelievable.

Q On the —

Q Unbelievable.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I love you so much, James.

Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q That’s on the record.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) It is.

Q On gun control, you mentioned the 2022 bill the President signed.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q Do you think that that bill is having an impact on the number of mass shootings that we’re seeing now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I think that piece of legislation certainly was important. It — it’s — it is taking steps for states, for example — and states to take actions to deal with gun violence in their communities.

But we need more. We’re always going to say we need more.

The President also took, as I mentioned earlier, two dozen — two dozen actions — right? — executive actions to deal with — to deal with gun violence, the epidemic that we’re seeing across the country.

But honestly, the way that we’re going to deal with this is to have legislation that deals with high-capacity magazines, assault weapons ban — that’s how we’re going to move forward — a national red flag ban. And that’s how we’re going to deal with this — this epidemic that we’re seeing across the country.

That’s why we keep saying enough is enough. Congress needs to act.

Yes, it was important that we took this step. Thirty years — it took thirty years to sign that bipartisan — not to sign but to get — to get that bipartisan legislation done, and the President obviously signed it.

But we need more. It is not enough. That’s what we believe. It’s just not enough.

All right, everybody. I’ll see some of you tomorrow. Thank you.

2:16 P.M. EST

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/01/04/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-nsc-coordinator-for-strategic-communications-john-kirby-january-4-2024/

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, January 4, 2024 first appeared on Social Gov.

originally published at Politics - Social Gov