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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Senior Advisor for Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms


James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:52 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy Friday.  And I got the date right today — (laughter) — the day right today. 

Q    It’s Friday the 13th.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh!  (Laughter.)  Well, it’s going to be a little crazy in here. 

Okay, as this week comes to a close, I want to take a moment to highlight the incredible progress the President has made for the American people in recent days, from expanding affordable healthcare, to lowering costs and tackling inflation, to bringing manufacturing and jobs back to our shores. 

President Biden started the week at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City, where he spoke for — to our close cooperation with Mexico and Canada to address shared challenges that impact the American people — challenges like combating climate change, COVID-19 pandemic, and transnational criminal organizations that are trafficking and smuggling people as well as illicit drugs like fentanyl. 

The President spoke to our work to take thousands of smugglers off the streets, catch record levels of fentanyl before it even reaches our border, strengthen border security, and increase resources for border communities, all over the — all over the opposition of Republican governors and Republican members of Congress, I might add. 

We’ve also continued taking action to lower healthcare costs for American families made possible by President Biden and congressional Democrats’ enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act. 

On Wednesday, HHS announced its historic plans for Medicai- — for Medicare to directly negotiate — negotiate lower prescription drug costs. 

In addition, starting this month, seniors on Medicare are seeing their insulin costs capped at $35 for a month’s supply.   They are also now able to get recommended vaccines for free.  All of this thanks to, again, the Inflation Reduction Act. 

HHS also announced a record-breaking enrollment number of healthcare coverage on the Affordable Health Care Act marketplace.  Nearly 16 million people have signed up for this open enrollment period for healthcare coverage, a 13 percent increase from last year.  And it includes over 3 million people who are — who are brand new to the marketplace.  And we’re not even done with the open enrollment yet.

Because of the cost-savings measure in the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed into law, millions of Americans are continuing to save $800 per year on health insurance on average.  And four out of the five Healthcare.gov enrollees can — can find coverage for $10 or less a month. 

All of this adds up to real — to real impact and meaningful progress to expand affordable, quality healthcare coverage for American families.  And that matters.  That matters to the American people. 

We also had exciting news on the economic front as well.  On Wednesday, as you all saw, the largest solar investment in U.S. history — a direct result of the President’s economic plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, again.  This $2.5 billion investment in Georgia will create 2,500 jobs. 

And yesterday, we learned that for the sixth month in a row, inflation has indeed come down.  Annual inflation has fallen to the lowest level since October of 2021.  And gas prices are down by more than $1.70 from their peak thanks in part to the President’s actions to increase oil supply, which were also historic actions that this President took. 

This is further proof the President’s economic plan is working.  Even though inflation is high in most major economies, it’s coming down in America and giving families more breathing room.  You hear the President say that all the time, how he wants to make sure that he’s giving American families a little bit more of a breathing room. 

At the same time, the President is building an economy from the bottom up and middle out, with the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, nearly 11 million jobs created, and historic manufacturing investment, like I just mentioned, totaling nearly $300 billion in major investments across the country. 

And as of — as we end this week, on Friday the 13th — as somebody marked — today, President Biden welcomed Prime Minister Kishida of Japan to the White House.  We will have a joint statement out for all of you shortly, laying out their conversation and their discussion this afternoon. 

But I can tell you that the two leaders are discussing the unprecedented actions we have taken together to better equip us for the 21st century challenges, as well as working to deepen our cooperation on everything from economics, to technology, to fighting the climate crisis, advancing peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and around the world. 

Today’s visit is a testament to President Biden’s investment in our alliances and partnerships since day one, since he walked into the administration. 

And a historic week is leading into a historic weekend.  I am so happy and glad to be joined by my colleague and former mayor of Atlanta, Senior Advisor for Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms, to talk about the President’s trip this coming Sunday to the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church to remember and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this Sunday, as I just said.

I know many of you had some interest here, so we wanted to make sure that she was here to answer any questions and to lay out why this day is going to be so important. 

I do want to say, on a personal note: As Black women, we have broken barriers.  This church and the day honoring King are near and dear to both of our hearts. 

I know, on a personal level, we are both looking forward to joining the President on this trip and being in what has been the epicenter of the movement from civil rights in this country for decades.

With that, Mayor Bottoms.  (Laughs.)  Okay, the floor is yours.

MS. BOTTOMS:  Thank you.  Well, good afternoon, everyone. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. BOTTOMS:  It’s kind of scary up here, right?  (Laughter.)

As Karine mentioned, I am looking forward to joining the President as he travels to Atlanta this weekend. 

As you — many of you all know, in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he expressed many ideals that he would not live to witness.  But I stand here and many of you sit out there as beneficiaries of that dream, his sacrifice, and service.  So, I am eternally grateful for that. 

As Karine mentioned, the President is traveling to Atlanta.  This is at the invitation of Reverend Warnock.  And the President will deliver a sermon at Ebenezer Church, which, of course, was Dr. King’s church, also Congressman John Lewis’s church. 

The President spoke with Senator Warnock last night.  Senator Warnock has been the pastor since 2005 at Ebenezer.  They had a wonderful conversation about the significance of this historic event, including the fact that the President is the first sitting President to speak at a Sunday service at Ebenezer in its history.

This would have been Dr. King’s 94th birthday.  As we know, this is an inflection point in history.  And the President will deliver remarks reflecting on Dr. King’s life and legacy and the way that we can go forward together. 

Following his trip to Atlanta on Sunday, he will join Reverend Al Sharpton on Monday at the National Action Network, which Monday, of course, is the day — the official celebration day of the King holiday.  The President will deliver the keynote speech there. 

And then, finally, before I take any questions, this is an important day.  As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, it’s our Founders Day — our 110th Founders Day.  So, the President did a lovely video for the women of Delta. 

Also, our Secretary of HUD, Marcia Fudge, was also a former national president of Delta. 

So, the President and the Vice President are very grateful for all of the support of the women of Delta and the Divine Nine.  And Happy Founders Day. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right, we’ll take a couple questions. 

Go ahead.

Q    Can I ask you if — as you’re — in your role in community outreach, whether the issue of the documents is a particular setback for the President at a moment when other things seem to be going pretty well?  Inflation is coming down.  Employment is solid.  Like, are you finding that you’re getting a lot of response from the public on that?  And how do you — how do you play that issue?

MS. BOTTOMS:  In my role as Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, we’ve not gotten any information on that in terms of from the public.  We’ve not received any questions.

Q    And do you anticipate that that will have any bearing or is causing the President to think at all about — as he’s making his decision about whether to run again — will this series of discoveries have any bearing on his thinking and his thought process as he decides whether to run?

MS. BOTTOMS:  I’ll refer those questions to the President.  He can speak for himself on that. 

Q    While the President is in Atlanta, what do you expect his message to be on voting rights in particular?  And given that the situation in the Senate remains virtually unchanged when he spoke about this issue in Atlanta last year, is he considering any additional executive action on this issue?

MS. BOTTOMS:  Well, the President has been very clear that we need Congress to act.  He’s asked for Congress to codify the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and also the additional voting rights act that’s pending before Congress; that’s the Freedom to Vote Act.

So, the President has been very clear that voting — the right to vote, the access to vote — is a core component of our democracy.  And he’s going to continue to push for that. 

Q    Including on Sunday at the church?

MS. BOTTOMS:  The President will speak on a number of issues at the church, including how important it is that we have access to our democracy.  And you can’t come to Atlanta and not acknowledge the role that the civil rights movement and Dr. King played in where we are in the history of our country.  But we still have to push forward.  We still have more work to do

Q    And just one other thing.  Do you expect him to have any engagement with the King family while he’s down there?

MS. BOTTOMS:  We do expect that.  I know in — on previous Sundays, previous King Day services and many Sundays prior to the pandemic, Dr. King’s sister, in particular, is often at the service.  I don’t know if she will be there this Sunday.  And we also expect other members of the King family to be there as well.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Franco.

Q    In regards to the voting rights — you know, last time — you know, last time it — around this time when President Biden went to Atlanta, some of the civil rights groups and voting rights groups skipped the speech out of concern that the White House wasn’t doing enough to push this issue. 

Aside from wanting Congress to do more, what — what is the message to those who feel the White House is not doing enough?

MS. BOTTOMS:  Well, as I’ve been in this role as senior advisor to the President since June of last year, we have engaged with civil rights leaders.  He’s had them at the White House in a roundtable.  I’m in constant contact with them.  And I think that it’s very clear that the President is doing everything that he can in his executive power to lean in on voting rights. 

But we need Congress to do more.  This is important.  If you’ve come through the East Wing, you’ve seen the pictures of Dr. King meeting with Lyndon Johnson, meeting with other civil rights leaders, hashing out voting rights in the White House. 

And so, the fact that we are still here talking about this in 2023, I think, really speaks to the fact that we need action.  We need that action from Congress.

The President has done and will continue to do all that he can do in his executive powers, but there’s only so much that he can do.  We need Congress to act.

Q    Is the feeling then that he is — that he has exhausted what he can do — his powers from the White House — his executive powers?

MS. BOTTOMS:  Well, if there is more that he can do, we welcome those suggestions.  But, as I stand here today, it’s my understanding that we have done all that we can do from the executive branch.  Now we need Congress to act.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Kristen.

Q    Yes.  Thank you so much, Mayor Bottoms, for being here.  We really appreciate it. 

When you look at the economy, you saw the unemployment rate come down last month, and yet, it went up for Black women, for Latinos.  What is your reaction?  How focused is this administration on trying to make sure that the recovery is equal, is helping African American women?

MS. BOTTOMS:  Well, equity is at the center of what we do from this administration.  And so, that’s extremely important.

You know, it’s been said that when America catches a cold, that Black America catches the flu.  Well, that’s also in relation to the economy.  We often know that communities of color and those communities that often face additional challenges have additional challenges with the economy. 

The great news is that the economy is doing much better under this administration.  Also, the President is going to continue to lean in to make sure that we have access — access to resources that are specific to communities of color, that are specific to women, to give us those opportunities to be successful in this economy. 

Q    Do you anticipate him addressing that in his remarks on Monday?

MS. BOTTOMS:  I know that he will generally speak about where we are, just in terms of helping those who are in need in our communities.  I don’t know if he will specifically address the economy. 

But as you all know, during Dr. King’s last major campaign before his assassination, it was called the Poor People’s Campaign. 

And what we know is that from this administration, many of the focus areas have been aligned with Dr. — with what Dr. King was focused on at the time of his assassination.  That’s making sure that we are creating this beloved community, free from hate, free from poverty, giving people access to resources so that they can have what they need to compete and succeed.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Two more. 

Q    Thank you.  Thinking back to the 2020 campaign, part of the President’s strategy at the time was going to visit these churches to engage some of the voters that he needed to turn out for him — in South Carolina; there was the 16th Street bombing anniversary that he spoke at in Alabama also; and in Selma for Bloody Sunday.  Is this speech at Ebenezer the start of a similar outreach campaign heading into 2024?

MS. BOTTOMS:  I don’t know that it’s the start of it, but it could be a great start of it.  I know that the President is very interested in connecting with people, hearing directly from people.  It’s the best way that any elected official truly hears and understands the needs of people.  And there’s no better place than to do that than at Ebenezer.

Reverend Warnock has not just been very vocal about the challenges and the issues that are facing people as a candidate but also as a pastor.  And Ebenezer is a cornerstone in the Atlanta community.  And I’m sure the President will get an earful on what our needs and our desires are for our country when he’s there. 

Q    Can you provide any insight into the writing process for the speech?  I know that oftentimes there’s a lot of time paid attention to speeches like this — how long the President has been working on it for.

MS. BOTTOMS:  We’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks as a team and, of course, with the President’s input.  And as with any major speech that the President is giving, you — he gives his input and — and the team takes it from there.  And then he takes his pen and he says what he wants to say, and you’ll hear that on Sunday.

Q    Is it finished?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  The last —

Q    Is it finished?  

MS. BOTTOMS:  No.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s never finished.

Okay.  Go ahead, Chris.

Q    Hi.  Just one question.  Obviously, Democrats had a big victory in the runoff election in Georgia.  He’s going back to a historic Black institution to speak with this church.  You know, how do you see the state — your home state kind of fit into the political landscape going forward now?

MS. BOTTOMS:  Georgia is pretty important.  I think the whole — I’ve always thought that.  Now the rest of the country knows it. 

We know that — that Georgia has paid — played an important role with how our senate is — is now comprised.  And I expect that that role will continue to be just as important in future election cycles.  And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, last question.

MS. BOTTOMS:  — and remember —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sorry.

MS. BOTTOMS:  — I just have to say this —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go for it.  Go for it. 

MS. BOTTOMS: — Georgia did go for Joe Biden.  All right?

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

Q    Just a couple of questions.  First, whether it be on Monday or on Sunday when he’s at Ebenezer, is he going to be meeting with any civil rights organizations at any point during any of those visits?

MS. BOTTOMS:  Well, as I mentioned on Monday, he will be joining Reverend Al at the National Action Network.  There’ll be many civil rights representatives there.  There will be many at the church who will also have an opportunity to connect with the President while he’s there.

Q    Nothing separately?

MS. BOTTOMS:  Nothing separately, but there will be some engagement while at the church.

Q    In the policy forum with Reverend Al Sharpton, when he attends the NAN — the NAN event, what kind of policies can you talk about that — you know, that they’ll be talking about on that — on that day?  Or what for — what kind of policies do you think that we can kind of expect to hear the President talk about? 

Even following that, I know that Rev has been talking about criminal justice reform quite a lot and had several other meetings.  Can we see the President pick back up on those same messages following this?

MS. BOTTOMS:  Well, the great thing is that this is not a one-time engagement.  Reverend Al and some of the other civil rights leaders, I believe, from eight other organizations were in the White House a few months ago, sitting down with the President, sharing their concerns. 

We — my office, me personally — I’m constantly engaged with these civil rights leaders.  So, we are hearing in real time what our challenges are. 

And I — I think I can safely say that we have the confidence of many of these leaders that we are doing what we can do, and we’ll continue to do more as we can to make sure that the needs of our communities are met.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you so much.

MS. BOTTOMS:  Thank you. 

Q    Thanks, Mayor. 

MS. BOTTOMS:  Thank you. 

Q    How — how did you feel that the President — President Biden picked Kamala Harris instead of you for — for a running mate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Thanks, everybody. 

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And thank you so much, Keisha.  Appreciate it.

I have a couple of things at the top that I just want to go through.  This is the week ahead, so all of you have this.  So — before we take questions.

So, later today, the President is going to travel to Wilmington, Delaware, as you all know. 

On Sunday, as you just heard from Mayor Lance Bottoms, the President will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, and deliver a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist church.

And, on Monday, he will return to Washington, D.C., to join Reverend Al Sharpton and the National — the National Action Network at their Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast, where he will deliver the keynote address.

On Tuesday, the President looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands to the White House to further deepen the historic ties between our two nations.  As strong NATO Allies and global partners, the two leaders will reaffirm our shared efforts to strengthen transatlantic security and economic prosperity.

After that bilateral meeting, the President will welcome the Golden State Warriors to the White House to celebrate their 2022 NBA championship.

And, next Friday, the President will welcome bipartisan mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting to — to the White House.  The President will deliver remarks celebrating the achievements of the past 18 months and focusing on the bipartisan work that needs to be done to implement these and other historic pieces of legislative victories at the level — at the local level to make difference — to make a difference in people’s lives across the country.

With that, Chris, you want to kick us off?

Q    Sure.  I have a question on a couple different topics.  Speaker McCarthy has invited the President to deliver the State of the Union on February 7th.  That just went out.  Is that the date that the President plans to give the State of the Union?  Does he accept that invitation on that date?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we have received Speaker McCarthy’s kind invitation, and the President has accepted it and looks forward to delivering the State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 17th of 2023.  So we —

Q    The 7th.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my God.  (Laughter.)  I’m so sorry, guys.  On Tuesday, February 7th, 2023.  But we truly appreciate the kind invitation by Speaker McCarthy.

Q    On the debt limit.  Republicans want to cut spending as part of a debt limit deal.  Is the President willing to cut any spending as part of a debt limit deal?  And what would he be willing to cut?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, as you’ve heard us say before, we will not be — be doing any negotiation over the debt ceiling.  But, broadly speaking, at the start of this new Congress, we’re reaching out to all the members through the Office of Leg Affairs, making sure that they — making sure that we have those connections with those new members, as I just stated.

But I want to say, like, in the past — and I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again — there’s been a bipartisan cooperation when it comes to lifting the debt ceiling, and that’s how it should be.  That’s how it should continue.

It’s not — it’s not and should not be a political football.  This is not political gamesmanship.  And we are — there — this should be done without conditions.  And that’s how we see this process moving forward.

Q    Sorry, when you say that there’ll be no negotiating, you will not negotiate anything involving spending but — with the debt limit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What we’re saying is that there should be — this should be done without conditions.  In the past, we have seen this — we have seen both Republicans and Democrats come together to deal with this issue.  It is a — it is one of the basic items that Congress has to deal with, and it should be done without condition.

So, there is going to be — there’s going to be no negotiation over it.  This is something that must get done.

Q    And does the President agree with the Secretary — Treasury Secretary that the debt ceiling should be eliminated?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I’ve spoken to this before.  That is not — no one is talking about eliminating the debt ceiling or the debt limit.  That’s not we’re talking rig- — about right now.  Congress is going to need to raise the debt limit without conditions.  So that is not what the discussion that we’re having.

Q    Very last thing.  Have White House officials been interviewed by the special counsel or by the Justice Department involving the classified documents?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what I will say from here is any — any questions that you may have about the review, about the process, I would refer you to the Department of Justice.  I would also refer you to my colleagues over at the White House Counsel.  I’m not going to get into any specifics from here.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q    Aside from the special counsel, aside from this review, I just have a question about process and classified documents and their handling, because I think there’s some confusion amongst the public and — and even in this room.  You know, what is the process to make sure that classified documents aren’t accidentally or intentionally taken when a President or Vice President leaves office?  You know, what’s the protocol?  Or is this sort of, just, you know, a self-review system?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a good question.  I would — on the process and how that works, I would — I would certainly refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.  They would know that.  They can walk you through that — my colleagues there.

And — and I know many of you have been — have been in touch with my colleagues in the last 24 hours — in direct touch — and answering many of your questions.  So I would refer you to them on the specific process so that they will — they will certainly guide you in the right way.

Q    And as — but, as far as you know, is it ever okay for classified documents to be mixed with personal effects?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can say — look, what I can say is what the President has said before, what I have said multiple times.  We take this very seriously.  The President takes a classified information, classified documents very seriously. 

But, look, you know, I’ve said this — I’ve said this before: We have addressed this issue multiple times at length.  And we have been fully cooperating with the Department of Justice.  And now we will be doing the same with the special counsel’s office.

Out of — just to be prudent here and just to make sure that we are consistent, I would refer anything that is related to this to the — as it relates to the review — to the Department of Justice or my colleagues at the White House Counsel Office.  And this is — we see it as the best way to move forward. 

We want to respect the process.  And so, that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to refer you to Department of Justice.

Q    Just to be clear: You’re confident he followed whatever protocol was in place?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, this is something that he takes very seriously — the President — when it comes to classified documents, when it comes to classified information. 

I’m not going to go into any specifics from here.  If you have any questions, anything further that’s related to the review or — I refer you to Department of Justice or my colleagues over at the White House Counsel’s Office, who I know many of you who I’m staring at right now has been in close touch.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q    A few things, Karine, thank you.  Following up on the State of the Union, I believe it was the President who suggested he has spoken with Speaker McCarthy.  Are there any plans for them to meet in person before February 7th?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, they spoke — and I think we actually shared that with all of you — the day that Speaker McCarthy became Speaker. 

You — you heard — you saw a statement from the President and the First Lady congratulating — congratulating Kevin McCarthy on becoming Speaker.  And then the next day, I believe it was — that was on a Friday — I believe the next day, which was a Saturday, the President had a direct conversation.  He connected with Speaker McCarthy and congratulated him in — in person.

Q    But no plans yet for a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have — I don’t have a plan- — I don’t have a — a scheduled meeting to share it with you at this time.

Q    I wanted to follow up on a few things from yesterday.  When was the President informed about the Attorney General’s decision to appoint a special counsel?  How and by whom?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I — the specifics on that, I can tell — here’s what I can tell you: I can tell you that we were not given a heads up.  I was asked that question yesterday.  We did not know that that was — the announcement was going to come yesterday until after it happened.  So I can clear the deck there and let you know.

Anything else specific to when the President knew or anything that’s related to this, I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.  I know many of you that I’m looking at right now has been in close touch with my colleague there.  And — and so I would continue to refer you to — to my colleague at the White House Counsel’s Office.

Q    One of the things that they have finally confirmed for us is that Bob Bauer is indeed the President’s personal attorney handling some of this.  Given that the Justice Department cited the personal counsel as having made this initial outreach to National Archives and that has been in touch with the Justice Department, is that the person who these questions should be directed to?  Why the White House Counsel?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I will say this again: I would — whatever the White House Counsel, my colleague told you in your conversation — I know you guys just spoke, or connected, earlier today — I would ask them that question. 

And anything related to the review, I would refer you to the Department of Justice.

Q    And regarding the extraordinary measures that the Treasury Secretary announced a little while ago in advance notice to Congress, is there a policy that requires her to give advance notice of those plans?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You would have to — you would have to reach out to the Department of Treasury on how that process works. 

What I can say is — just so that everyone knows, folks who are watching — the debt limit is projected to be reached on Thursday, January 19th.  At that point, Treasury will begin to take extraordinary measures to prevent default.

Secretary Yellen did not name a specific X date, if you will — the day Treasury would no — the day Treasury would no — no longer be able to pay the government’s obligations.  But, quoting from the Secretary’s letter: It’s unlikely that ca- — that cash and extraordinary measu- — measures will be exhausted before early June.  But does — that does not mean that Congress should not wait until then to raise the debt ceiling.

As we have been saying over and over again, the sooner Congress acts, the better, since even the prospect of not raising the debt ceiling will have — damage the full faith and the credit of our nation.

And, again, we are going to continue to — to encourage current Congress to act.  But as far as the steps and — and how this all works, I would refer you to Department of Treasury.

Q    Because today is six days to the 19th.  A few years ago, she did it about 10 days beforehand.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I understand.  I would refer you to the Department of Treasury.

Q    So there’s nothing to it being announced today amid the situation that the White House is facing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would — I would refer you to Department of Treasury. 

And just to be very clear here, Ed, we have — I’ve been in here almost every day since we got back from Mexico City, standing here, taking your questions at length.  So, we’re not avoiding anything here.  And you’ve heard —

Q    No, you’re not.  You’re here.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — you’ve heard — you’ve heard from the President at least twice.  And you — we have put forth multiple statements from the White House Counsel’s Office.  So, that suggestion, I just disagree with.

Go ahead, Kristen.

Q    Karine, thank you so much.  Does the White House and does the President agree to fully cooperate with the special counsel investigation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We have said that we are going to continue to — continue to fully cop- — cooperate.  We have been.  The President’s lawyers and team has been fully cooperating with the Department of Justice.  And we’re certainly — they’re certainly going to do that with the special counsel. 

Q    And so, by that reasoning, would the President agree to sit for an on-the-record, in-person interview with the special counsel or (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not — I’m not going to get into specifics or get ahead of what’s going to happen.  I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, because that is a hypothetical. 

What I will say is: We have addressed this multiple times at length, and we are going to continue — the President’s team is going to continue to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice.  And we respect that process, and that’s what we’re going to do.

Q    The President has said he hopes to speak about this soon.  When can people expect to hear from him about this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Don’t have — again, that’s a — that is — that is something that I can’t — I don’t have a magic wand here.  I don’t know when that’s going to happen. 

What I can say is: His team is going to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice.

Let’s not forget, the President said during the campaign that when it comes to the Department of Justice independence, he respects that.  And that is something that he had said was incredibly important to make sure that they had their independence. 

That’s why we say we’re going to make sure that they have their independence.  And that’s why I’m saying that we’re going to refer to the Department of Justice. 

Q    And let me just ask you a big-picture question here: Does the White House, broadly speaking, have an obligation to share not just with the National Archives, but with the American people when the existence of classified information is found in a private location?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, there is a process in this.

Q    But just big picture.  Not necessarily in —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We —

Q    — this instance.  But is it the policy of the White House that they should share that information not just with the National Archives, but with the American people?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll say this, Kristen: We have been transparent in the last couple of days in — remember there’s an ongoing process, and we have spoken when it is appropriate. 

And we have shared — again, I’ve been here almost every day — well, not every day, but from Wednesday, yesterday, and today — taking your questions on this.  The White House Counsel has put out a very extensive — multiple statements on this as well. 

And you all — I know you all have been talking — many of you here have been talking to my colleague in the White House Counsel. 

So what the — the — the actions that we took were right — right actions that his team took in deal — in — in dealing with the Department of Justice and also the Archives.  Look, I have —

Q    But just to be clear —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I have —

Q    — you guys have answered question when the press has broken in the news —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because it’s an ongoing process. 

Q    — (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because, again, it is an ongoing process.  There is a process here.  The Department of Justice is independent.  We respect that process. 

But, again, I have taken questions.  I can take two — two questions to a hundred questions.  I have answered your questions as — almost every day on this issue. 

And, again, anything else that you may have, anything that’s related to the review, I would refer you to the Department of Justice. 

Q    One — one last question, because I know you’ve got to move on here.  But the President campaigned on the argument that he would restore confidence.  We know that he’s in the process of deciding whether to officially announce he’s running for reelection.  Does this episode undercut that argument that he would restore confidence?  Because here we have in the headlines that he is now under investigation (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He’s restored independence in the Department of Justice.  That’s what we’re doing here.

When we’re saying we’re going to refer you to the Department of Justice, that is restoring independence as it — as it relates to issues like this.  And that is important to the President.  And it’s been consistent. 

What I am saying about investigations has been consistent for the last two years.  You’ve heard me over and over — again, when it comes to a legal issue or matter like this, we have always referred to the Department of Justice.  So there’s nothing here — different here.  We have said we wanted to restore the independence of the Department of Justice.  That is what you’re seeing. 

And again, we — this has been done in a transparent way.  When it relates to how this was dealt with, with the Department of Justice and the Archives, the President takes this very, very seriously. 

Any other questions that you may have about this particular issue, about the review, I would refer you to the Department of Justice.  You guys have been in touch with my colleagues at the White House Counsel’s Office, and I would suggest that you continue to reach out. 

Go ahead, Steven. 

Q    Thanks.  I just want to press you on that point about the idea of disclosures when it’s appropriate.  You describe a process, but it sort of feels like a strategy — a communication strategy to protect the President from political damage.  Was it the hope and expectation here that this would have remained a private matter and not have been subject to public disclosure?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, Steven, that’s your version of the case.  I’ve been very clear here, and I’ve answered that question multiple times in different versions — right? — in the last couple of days. 

Look, I want to be very clear: There is a process here; we are going to respect the process.  This is all part of the Department Jus- — the Department of Justice process.  And we are cooperating fully.  We are cooperating fully in this process. 

And, again, the President believes that the Justice Department and its independence needs — needed to be restored.  That’s what you have seen under this administration the last two year — two years.  And I want to be consistent in what I’m saying.  I want to be prudent in what I’m saying when I say that we are going to defer any questions related to this to the Department of Justice. 

And any other items that you have, if you don’t want to talk to the Department of Justice, you’re free to talk to the White House Counsel Office; I know you guys have been in touch with my colleagues there. 

Q    We have done both.  But let me just ask you, because oftentimes in the careers of White House Press Secretaries, there becomes — there comes a time where they are asked, you know, what they knew and when they knew it.  Were you or any member of your staff involved in the crafting of the strategy as to when this disclosure should be made in advance of CBS News breaking the story on Monday evening?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.

Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Oh, did you have a question?  (Laughter.)

Q    I did, yeah.  I was just typing down the answer there.

A couple of eco questions for you.  Do you have a position on how high the debt limit should be raised?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a position on that.  What I can say more broadly —

Q    The President won’t weigh —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ll —

Q    — won’t weigh in on that if there’s negotiations (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ll — I mean, what I am saying is that, more broadly speaking — I’m not going to get into the specifics of that — what I can say is that we believe when it comes to the debt limit, it has been done in a bipartisan way over the years and decades, and it should be done in a bipartisan way.  And it should be done without conditions.  That is important here. 

And so we’re going to continue to encourage and ask Congress to take action.  And that’s where we’re going to leave it at this time.  We’re not going to do any negotiations or — and it should begin — again, done without conditions.

Q    Would he make calls to Congress at all?  Is this a Leg Affairs thing —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I — I —

Q    — or is it entirely up to Congress to be able to do?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I mean, I’ve said that the Leg — our Office of Leg Affairs has been in touch with the new Congress to make sure that they know who to reach out — the appropriate people to reach on the Office of Leg Affairs. 

And so we’re going to continue.  We’re always having conversations with members of — members of Congress.  The President always has multiple conversations with members of Congress.  As you know, he has a lot of longtime friends who are over — over on the other side of Pennsylvania.  And so that is something that continues. 

But when it comes to this — when it comes to the debt limit, it should be done without conditions.  It was done under the last President three times in a bipartisan way.  And so, this should — this should continue.

Q    And very quickly on the CPI data yesterday.  You know, pretty good result there.  That comes on the heels of the jobs data, which was pretty strong.  Your officials have been kind of, you know, jazzed about that, it seems, on the TV in the last 24 hours or so.  Is it fair to say that the White House is thinking this is what a soft landing could look like, or are you not getting that far?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what I — what we can say —

Q    Where are you on “Team Soft Landing,” in other words?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Team Soft Landing.  (Laughs.)  I’ll say this — and as you said, you’ve heard from many of my colleagues who are in the — who are economists who have been working on this issue, pushing for the President’s economic plan. 

Look, it just goes back to the President’s economic plan.  And we see it as it’s working — right? — with what — the vision that the President has for this country.  When you think about when he came in, he passed the American Rescue Plan.  You think about all the other historic pieces of legislation — the Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation.  I talked — I talked multiple times in — at the top about the Inflation Reduction Act.

Look, it is — it matters what the vision of a President is, and him acting out on it.  And that’s what you saw.

When you see inflation down for six months, that’s — that matters, right?  That’s because of the President’s economic plan.

When you see annual inflation down 6.5 percent from where it was this summer — just this summer at nine-one- — point-one percent; gas prices down by about more than a buck 70 per — from its peak.  All of that matters. 

And so that’s how we’re seeing this.  We’re seeing it as the President’s economic plan is indeed working. 

We’re going to continue to put the American families and American people first and work on this issue that you hear us talk about all the time.  His number one economic issue is bringing down inflation. 

That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act — what I talked about — when you think about healthcare, when you think about Medicare and negotiating those prices, when you think about what we announced in Georgia — 2,500 jobs are going to be created because of the Inflation Reduction Act — all of that — all of that matters.  And all of that is important.  And it’s, more broadly speaking, about the President’s economic plan.

Look, we believe that we continue to be in this transition of stable and steady growth.  And I think that’s what — we believe that’s what the numbers continue to show as you talk about the jobs report that we saw recently and as you talk — as we talk about the CPI data.

Q    So you’re not calling it a “soft landing” then?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just — I’m just saying that we are in this transition of a stable —

Q    Loaded phrase.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — (laughter) — a transition to stable and steady growth.  And we believe that the econo- — the President’s economic policies that he’s put forward in the past two years, we’re seeing that working. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  U.S. Attorney John Lausch was looking into this for several weeks before.  He was in touch with —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Looking into what exactly?

Q    Into the classified documents. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    He was in touch with President Biden’s counsel.  I wanted to know, was the — was President Biden, was the White House surprised that along with Merrick Garland, that he decided that more investigation was needed and a special counsel was — was called — was appointed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can tell you is that we were not given a heads up that the — that Attorney General Garland was going to make his — made his announcement yesterday on the special counsel.  That is something that we learned, like many of you, watching the news.

I’m not going to get into — into anything further from that.  I can’t speak to this person who you just mentioned, who has been, I don’t know, having conversations or making comments about this.  I’m just not going to get into that.  I’m not going to re- — give reactions from here.

What I can tell you is: Again, I’m going to refer you to the White House Counsel and — Office to talk to my colleagues on any particular questions that you may have that’s related to this process.  And if it’s something that you want to know specifically about the review, I will refer you to Department of Justice.

Q    When President Biden did say, you know, “God willing,” he hoped to be able to say more “soon,” I mean, it seemed like he was thinking that the investigation would end soon.  Was he surprised?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — again, I’m just not going to go beyond what the President said.  I will say this — is that we are — we are — we’re going to continue to fully cooperate.

As I’ve said, we have talked about this at length.  We’ve had multiple statements on this.  And, again, I want to be prudent here.  I’m going to be consistent here.  Any questions that you may have about this process, I would refer you to the White House Counsel.

Q    On another — on another topic.  I wanted to ask about the administration’s appeal of the Sutherland Springs mass shooting case.  Does it concern the administration that some gun control advocates are concerned or worried about the appeal by the DOJ and that that appeal undercuts Biden’s own stance on background checks, and actually, also that the NRA is essentially applauding the DOJ’s move?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, when it comes to issues like this, legal issues, that is something that the Department of Justice deals with.  Again, they are independent, so I would refer you to them on their decision.

The President continues to be committed on making sure that we address an issue that is affecting families across the country, communities across the country, which is gun violence.  That’s why it was so critical when he signed the bipartisan piece of legislation on gun violence just a couple of months ago, this past summer.  And he’s going to continue to call for the ban of assault weapons, working with Congress to make that happen.

And let’s not forget, the first year and a half of this administration, we put forwar- — we put forward more executive actions than any other President on dealing with this issue, on dealing with protecting our communities, protecting families, dealing with gun violence, and that that is — that call that he has, especially the call to action from Congress, is going to continue and is not going to stop.

I’m going to go to the back.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I have two questions on the meeting with the Prime Minister.  But just briefly on the documents: We have seen online propaganda from adversaries seeking to take advantage from this revolut- — revelation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m sorry, can you say — can you go back a little bit? 

Q    Sure.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Who’s see- — who’s seeking to take advantage?

Q    We have seen online propaganda from adversaries seeking to take advantage of the revelation of the classified documents.  I wonder if you can share with us whether the administration is anticipating any kind of national security implications from this fallout?  Are you hearing any kind of intelligence?  And are you doing anything to deter those threats?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I’m just not going to talk about any intelligence from here.  I would certainly — anything that’s related to this, I would refer you to the Department of Justice and to — and also refer you to my colleagues at the White House Counsel.  I’m just not going to go into anything — any fur- — especially national security affairs.  And so, I would refer you to them.

Q    Okay.  I’ll probably follow up with your National Security Council —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’d be great.

Q    — friends.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’d be great.

Q    On the meeting, I know we’re waiting for a readout, but if you can tell us whether the leaders spoke about semiconductors and whether Japan confirmed that it will enact export controls to limit Chinese access to semiconductors, and whether the Prime Minister again urged President Biden, as he has done so many times, if he would be open to joining CPTPP.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, on CPTPP, this is not an option we’re exploring.  I think we have said that before.  We’re focused on the IPEF — as you know, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework — negotiations and deepening our economic ties with those 13 partners, many of which are TPP partners.  So that is going to be our focus.  That has not changed.

As it relates — again, I want to — don’t want to get ahead of the conversation.  They’re currently still having a dialogue.  The bilat is still occurring.  But I expect they will discuss China, Russia, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and the DPRK’s unlawful nuclear and missile programs.  And the leaders will focus on what they can get done together in 2023.

Japan holds in the G7 presidency and has just taken a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council while we’re hosting the APEC and seeking to make shift [swift] progress on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.

Prime Minister Kishida arrived at the White House, as you all know — I believe my colleague laid out what came out of that 2+2 — after consulting closely with us and regional partners in Europe.  And I expect the President and the Prime Minister Kishida will — will debrief on those consultations.

Again, don’t want to get ahead of — we’re going to have a readout for you.  They’re having this conversation currently.  And so, once we have the readout this afternoon, we certainly will share that.

Q    Okay.  And if I can just dig a little bit deeper on IPEF, Karine, because we really haven’t heard much about this framework since it was launched last year.  So, at this point, it seems like the administration still believes that this is the best offer that the U.S. can give to counter Chinese trade clout.  Is that — am I understanding this correctly?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just — so, as you said, it was announced in Tokyo just this past May.  And — and Japan was a critical partner, as you know, in helping us to build support, particularly among Southeast Asian countries.  So that is important.  Again, Japan has been a critical partner in this.

IPEF partners represent 40 percent of the world GDP.  And we are united in our belief that much of our success and coming — in coming decades will depend on how well governments harness innovation.

So that is part of it.  Right?  We got to see how this works through, especially the transformations afoot in the clean energy, digital technology sectors while fortifying our economies against a range of threats, from fragile supply chains to corruption to tax havens.

So, again, with Japan’s partnerships and leadership in the negotiations, we expect to achieve high-standard commitments that will deepen our economic engagement in the region and make good progress in text-based negotiations this year.

So this is a partnership that is incredibly important.  Japan played a very big role in it, when you think about — it represents the 40 percent of the world GDP.

And so, look, this is, again, an important partnership.  This is a framework that we are incredibly committed to, and we appreciate Japan’s partnership in this.

Q    Karine, a couple more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hmm?

Q    A couple more on —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, yeah, yeah.  Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Yeah.  Thanks, Karine.  I want to ask you about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  So, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce embraced President Biden in 2020.  And now the president of the U.S. Chamber says that the businesses it represents are fed up with the government making it harder to do business and adding new rules and regulations.  Do you have any response?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, I do.  First thing, the President’s first two years in office have been the best for job creation in history, when you think about 10.5 — nearly 10.5 million jobs created.  Manufacturing and small businesses are on the rise, and we are seeing progress in our fight against global inflation.  So — so, that’s the first piece to just lay out there.

The second — look, I don’t think that it’s all — all of the Chamber’s presidents who said that.  She also called out polarization and gridlock and called for permitting reform, immigration reform, improving childcare, improving climate resilience, and funding law enforcement. 

So, those are all areas where the President has called for Congress to act.  And we also agree with the Chamber that Congress must address the debt limit and we can, quote, “…not play chicken with the true faith and credit of the United States.”  That’s — end quote.

And lastly, let me just say, as I think everyone is aware, the last two years showed historic bipartisan progress for the American people.  I’ve talked about in — this in — during this press — during this press briefing, those pieces of legislation — again, historic pieces of legislation, including on rebuilding our infrastructure and investing in American manufacturing.

So, the President’s plans on infrastructure, next-generation research, clean energy, and manufacturing are strongly supported by the business community.  Again, you know, we do outreach to different communities when we talk about these important pieces of legislation, when we talk about the President’s economic plan, but he also believes big corporations should — should pay their fair share in taxes.  And that’s not just us; that’s also the American public who believes that they should be doing this.

Q    But she said also that there’s government regulatory overreach, adding, and I’ll quote her, “When regulations are driven by ideological agendas and imposing — imposed on businesses without transparency, accountability, or clarity — government isn’t working.”  So, will there be changes in its government work?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll say this, our administration is leveraging every available tool to advance the President’s ambitious agenda for the country and to deliver for the American people.  That’s the President’s primary goal. 

When he comes — when he came into the administration, and it continues to be the case, he wanted to make sure that he’s delivering for the American people, delivering for American families, making sure that we’re building an economy from the bottom up, middle out, and that’s what you are seeing.

I was just asked about the inflation data, the CPI data, and the jobs report.  We are seeing — while there’s still more work to do, we are seeing the economic — the President’s economic policy is actually working. 

Okay.  Go ahead, Alex.  In the back.

Q    Yeah.  Karine, earlier this week, we discussed the situation in Florida with, I think, about 350 Cuban migrants landing at Dry Tortuga and Key West.  I believe you said it was a political ploy on the part of Governor DeSantis to deploy the National Guard.  His office has said that the Coast Guard requested help patrolling the waters off Florida. 

So, can you just kind of discuss your understanding of the situation in Florida and how that — how that understanding has developed in the last several days?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yep.  And I’m going to be — and I’m happy to repeat what I said, which is: Governor DeSantis has made a mockery of — of the system.  And he has consistently and constantly — as many of you have reported — has done political stunts, has not helped to address the issue, but has instead decided to put the lives of migrants who are coming here for a better life at risk.  And that’s what we have seen from this governor.

Look, when it comes to the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection, they are deploying additional personnel and resources to Florida to quickly process individuals and place them in removal proceedings.

I would note that the migrants from Cuba were — who arrived in Florida over a week ago were processed and moved out of the state by Border Patrol within days.

The — at the National Park that you mentioned, it reopened just this past Sunday.  The President has expanded safe, orderly, legal pathways for migration, including for Cubans.  And we continue to urge individuals to use those instead of risking their lives at the hands of human — human strugglers [smugglers].  And then you heard that directly from this President just a couple of days ago on the world stage in Mexico City.

I’m going to try and call folks I haven’t.  Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks, Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You — I called on you earlier.  Go ahead, Karen.

Q    You’ve several times today referred people to the White House Counsel for questions about the process and the review.  Would you bring Richard Sauber here or someone from his team to answer these questions in the briefing room in a
formal capacity?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the White House Counsel’s Office has provided information on this, this week, as appropriate.

Again, I think I just said this.  I’ve said this multiple times during this briefing — that I know, in the last 24 hours, my colleagues at the White House Counsel has been — at the White House Counsel’s Office has been in touch with many of you and has answered a lot of your questions.  And so, that will continue.  You reach out to them, and they will — they will certainly engage. 

And so, I’m going to leave it there.  But again, I will — anything that is related to this review, I would — I would send you to Department of Justice.  Again, if there is something specific to — to this that you want from us, I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.

Q    And is the White House concerned that this investigation is going to overshadow what you are trying to do right now, what your message is right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, our message is very clear and it will continue to — to be just that.  And you’ve seen it.  That’s why when I started the briefing, I laid out all of the — all of the kind of progress that we have made just this week alone — when you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, when you think about how it’s going to lower costs for American families, when you think about the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. 

Just recently, as you all — some of you were there in Kentucky where you saw bipartisanship, talking about a bridge that has — for decades — for decades, presidents have talked about fixing that bridge.  And this President, because of the bipartisanship that he was able to bring together, got that done.

And so, we’re not going to stop talking about how we’re going to deliver for the American people.  I actually think, and we actually believe, there are — there are people who are watching — the American people who are watching want to hear that.  They want to hear what I just laid out at the beginning of the briefing.  They want to know how this President, how this administration, how the federal government is delivering for them.

So, we’re — again, we’re going to continue to have those conversations.  You’re going to continue to hear from me speaking about that.  You heard from the President yesterday talking about the CPI data and how important it was to see inflation go down in six — six months, and how we’re seeing record low unemployment in 50 years.  That is conversation, and that work is going to continue.

Thanks, everybody.  Have a great weekend.

1:47 P.M. EST



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