Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby – The White House
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:52 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back from your Thanksgiving holiday. Hope everyone had a restful and wonderful holiday.
Okay, I’m going to be really quick at the top. As you see, we have a guest — as you know, we have a guest from National Security Council, John Kirby, with us today who’s going to take your questions ahead of the state visit. As you know, that will be happening on Thursday — our first state visit with France. And — first state visit, clearly, with — in this administration.
So, with that, I’m going to just start right away and turn it over to Kirby.
All right, John.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you so much, Karine.
Well, as Karine said, I’ve just got a couple of comments here at the top about the state visit. As the first state visit of the Biden-Harris administration, this is an opportunity to highlight a foundational component of this administration’s approach to foreign policy, and that’s through alliances.
France is a vital global partner and, of course, the United States’ oldest ally.
Our economic ties span established and cutting-edge sectors, with major investments in both directions supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in each country.
Our defense and security cooperation continues to expand and, of course, is vital to peace and stability all around the world.
Our partnership in tackling tough global challenges is underpinned by our shared commitment to democratic principles, values, and institutions.
And our cultural ties remain a source of strength and importance to our bilateral relationship. France remains, as you know, a top destination for many Americans and vice versa.
So, just briefly on the schedule breakdown: On Wednesday, President Macron will join Vice President Harris in visiting NASA headquarters to showcase our deepening collaboration on space, in support of Earth, climate, and space science and space exploration.
The bulk of the state visit events will take place on Thursday, starting with the official arrival ceremony. While then — while President Biden and President Macron conduct a bilateral discussion, there will be a separate program for the First Lady and Mrs. Macron.
In the afternoon, the Vice President and Secretary Blinken will host a luncheon at the State Department in honor of President and Mrs. Macron.
And then, of course, the visit culminates in the state dinner here at the White House that evening.
Throughout all of these events, you can expe- — you can expect to see on display both our long, shared history as allies, as well as our deep partnership in taking on the most urgent global challenges of today and tomorrow.
We anticipate that we’ll have more to share about the details of the state dinner and the guest list later this week.
While there are specific areas where we anticipate we’ll make progress during this visit, I want to stress that this visit really largely serves as a celebration of the strong footing of this relationship — one that is well rooted in our history from the very beginnings of our country, while also oriented squarely toward the future. And it’s a very dynamic, exciting future that we’re looking forward to.
With that, I’ll take some questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Andrea, do you want to go first?
Q Yeah. So, John, I wonder if you could just say a few words about why France was chosen for the first state visit. I know you sort of talked about the historic ties, but is this also, kind of, you know, a gesture in terms of making — making the relationship a little smoother after the AUKUS dust of last year?
MR. KIRBY: I kind of alluded to it in the answer, Andrea. A real — kind of a long pole in the tent for President Biden’s approach to foreign policy and to the world around us is the — is the strength and power of alliances. And our alliance is something that no other nation in the world can match — the network of American alliances. France is our oldest one.
And, I mean, if you look at what’s going on in Ukraine, look at what’s going on in the Indo-Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of all those things. And President Macron has been a dynamic leader inside the G7, particularly there in Europe.
And so, the President felt that this was exactly the right and the most appropriate country to start with for state visits.
Q Can I just follow up on that? One big issue that is dividing the U.S. and Europe at this moment is — are the EV credits in the Inflation Reduction Act.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q This is an issue — I mean, I realize the way the EU is structured — you know, the EU, Brussels, (inaudible) trade policy. Do you expect that issue to come up? Do you think there’s any chance of resolving that, short of a WTO, you know, dispute?
MR. KIRBY: I think, certainly, that the issue will most likely come up. I think we look forward to having that discussion with our French counterparts.
As you know, last month, the United States stood up — helped stood up — stand up an EU-U.S. IRA taskforce, just last month, to try to make sure that we can better understand the concerns of our European friends about this and so many other issues.
The bottom line for us is, first of all, we want to understand the concerns. We’re absolutely willing to have that conversation and to find a way to work through those issues of concern. But it’s not a zero-sum game. I mean, clean energy — that’s a tide that raises all boats, the more we can transition to a clean energy economy around the world. And there’s plenty of opportunity for everybody in that.
So we’re looking forward to having those discussions.
Q Thanks, Karine and John. On a different topic, I was hoping — what is the White House’s message, the President’s message to people in China who are peaceably protesting COVID lockdowns there? And then, did the topic of China’s zero-COVID policy come up in the President’s bilateral meeting with President Xi when they met in Indonesia a couple weeks ago?
MR. KIRBY: They did talk about COVID and the effect that the pandemic had had around the world. Clearly, that came up inside the conversation. I don’t know if, specifically, the zero-COVID policy was an issue of discussion, but certainly COVID was on the agenda, as you might expect that it would be.
And our message to peaceful protesters around the world is the same and consistent: People should be allowed the right to assemble and to peacefully protest policies or laws or dictates that they take issue with.
Q Does the White House support their efforts to sort of regain personal freedoms in light of these lockdowns?
MR. KIRBY: The White House supports the right of peaceful protest.
Q And then, on a different topic, the State Department announced today that Russia abruptly canceled the latest rounds of arms negotiations.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q Is the present plan to reach out to anybody about that? Is there any White House reaction to that?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any phone calls or conversations to read out. What you’re talking about is the Bilateral Consultative Commission. And this is a component of the New START Treaty that was signed on to in 2010. This is a — it’s basically an opportunity for both sides to get together and talk about the technicalities, the formalities, the compliance mechanisms that are in place with respect to New START.
This would have been the first one that we would have put in place since COVID, which obviously prevented those kinds of face-to-face meetings, so we very much were looking forward to starting. It was supposed to start tomorrow. And we were very much looking forward to that because we continue to believe in the importance of New START.
We haven’t got — haven’t received, excuse me, a real solid answer from the Russians as to why they postponed this. We’re going to be working through the embassy to try to figure out what happened here. And we’d like to see it get back on the schedule as soon as possible, because it’s important. It’s not just important for our two nations. It’s important for the rest of the world.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, we’re going to go the back. The gentleman in the back. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Two questions, John. First, the niece of the Ayatollah Khamenei was arrested in Tehran recently as part of the protest mark. Does the administration, having stated its support for peaceful protests, have any particular statement about her arrest?
MR. KIRBY: We would, I think, say — stay very consistent, sir, that we believe in the right of peaceful protest. We have made it clear that we stand with particularly — it’s largely Iranian women, but it’s obviously beyond that — but particularly their concerns about the dictates that have affected their lives personally.
And we will continue to do whatever we can to not only support their right of protest but to hold the regime accountable for the way it’s treating its people.
Q And along the same lines, is the administration going to put out a statement to the military junta in Burma about the published reports of the incarceration and keeping incommunicado the former leader Aung San Suu Kyi?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have a preview of some sort of statement to read out to you today. We’ve been very clear about our concerns over — over the military’s domination there and their practice and their policies, particularly the way they treat political prisoners. But I don’t have a statement for you today about that particular issue.
Q On China, John, is it the U.S.’s assessment that these protests we’ve seen are widespread? Or are they perhaps more isolated incidents that are being amplified by social media?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t think that we know a whole lot more about the geographic location, size, scale, and scope of them than what you’re learning as well through social media and through traditional media. It’s not like we have, I think,
a finer sense of insight than what’s already out there in the public sphere. So I — you know, I don’t — I don’t have a sense of that.
Q In that realm, the statement you issued — or that was
issued earlier today didn’t include any explicit calls for China to stop detaining and harming protesters and journalists. Why not?
MR. KIRBY: We’re watching this closely, as you might expect we would. And again, we continue to stand up and support the right of peaceful protest.
And I think we’re going to watch this closely, and we’ll see where things go.
Q Can I ask you a quick one on Iran?
MR. KIRBY: Sure.
Q The U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
— had thrown up an image of the old flag before them, including the Islamic Republic symbol.
MR. KIRBY: That’s right.
Q Was the — does the White House have any comment on that decision?
MR. KIRBY: No, actually, we don’t. And this isn’t the kind of thing that you would — that the White House would comment on.
USA Soccer is a private entity, and they — they make their own decisions about those kinds of things. And we wouldn’t — we wouldn’t comment on that. We wish them all the best tomorrow.
Q The team had said it was cons- — it changed the flag after consultations with various entities afterward. Are you aware of anyone in the U.S. government speaking to the team about —
MR. KIRBY: I am not aware of any conversations by anybody in the U.S. government that had anything to do with their decision either to post that image previously and then to take it down and replace it, no.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: JJ.
Q On China, again, John, is it the U.S.’s — is it the U.S.’s assessment that there’s any sort of risk to the U.S. economy or the U.S. supply chain because of the protests?
MR. KIRBY: We don’t see any particular impact right now to the supply chain as a result of these protests.
Q And then, on the vaccines: Has the U.S. offered any U.S.-made vaccines — coronavirus vaccines — to China — the mRNA vaccines?
MR. KIRBY: We have not offered any to China at this time. As you know, we are the largest supplier of COVID vaccines around the world. And we have not received any requests or any interest by China to receive our vaccines.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sebastian.
Q Thank you very much. Thank you, John. Again, on China. You had just noted that you’re watching this closely, as we might expect. Could you give us a sense of how much the President is engaging with this issue? Is he watching it personally, you know, getting updated more than on, maybe, some other things?
MR. KIRBY: The President is staying briefed on what’s going on inside China. Yes.
Q Is it fair to say he’s “closely” briefed on this?
MR. KIRBY: Any time — (laughter) —
Q Just — just trying to get an impression of, like, where he’s at with this issue.
MR. KIRBY: I’ve never been in the room where he wasn’t, like, closely briefed. I mean, yeah, he’s — he’s — he’s staying atop on what’s — what’s going on. He’s monitoring this. We all are.
So, yes, the President is certainly staying mindful of the protest activity.
Q Okay. Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Alex, way in the back.
Q Thanks, Karine. Thank you, John. You know, I sort of assume that the United States supports peaceful protest around the world. That, with all due respect, doesn’t strike, I would think, most people as a novel position.
The question is —
MR. KIRBY: Well, I’m glad that it’s not a novel position. It’s exactly where we should be.
Q But the President has explicitly drawn a contrast between autocracy and democracy here and also abroad. Isn’t this a moment — obviously, without getting into some sort of grand conflict — to sort of assert the rights of people, advocating for freedom and democracy more forcefully than perhaps we have?
MR. KIRBY: This is, I think, a moment to reassert what we believe in when it comes to free assembly and — and peaceful protest. And we’ve done that and will continue to do that, whether it’s people protesting in Iran or China or anywhere else around the world.
Nothing has changed about the President’s firm belief in the power of democracy and democratic institutions and how important that is. But this is really a moment — to put it back into your words — this is a moment for — you know, for the — for the Chinese people and the Chinese government to speak to.
We have been nothing but clear and consistent, and I think you’ll see that going forward.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Peter and then Mary.
Q So, just to follow up, John: On the China issue, why is the White House’s line that “everybody has the right to peacefully protest” and not “the U.S. thinks it’s bad to lock people up in their houses to stop COVID”?
MR. KIRBY: We’ve — we’ve made it clear, Peter, that a lockdown is not a policy that we’re going to support here. We’ve — we’ve come a long way over these last three years — hard to believe three years — in terms of treating COVID and preventing COVID.
So we’ve said, you know, a lockdown is not a policy that we support here. But, obviously, there are people in China that — that have — have concerns about that. And they’re protesting that, and we believe they should be able to do that peacefully.
Q Okay. And on the sanctions relief for Venezuela —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q — why is it that President Biden would rather let U.S. companies drill for oil in Venezuela than here in the U.S.?
MR. KIRBY: That’s not an accurate take on the President’s view.
Q Earlier this month, he said, “No more drilling. There is no more drilling.”
MR. KIRBY: The President has issued 9,000 permits for drilling on U.S. federal lands, Peter; 9,000 of them are being unused. There are plenty of opportunities for oil and gas companies to drill here in the United States.
Now, I’ll let Chevron speak for this particular issue of sanctions relief, but our expectation is it won’t be a lot of oil coming out of there. It will have to be shipped to the United States.
Q Does the President think there’s some benefit to the climate to drill oil in Venezuela and not here?
MR. KIRBY: No, it has nothing to do with a benefit to the climate, Peter. Again, there are 9,000 unused permits here in the United States on federal land that oil and gas companies can and should take advantage of. Nine thousand. And we’re talking about one there in Venezuela.
Now, look, it remains to be seen how much will get drilled down there. It’ll be up to Chevron to decide that, Peter. But — but as a function of the sanction itself, that oil, whatever product is drilled, has to come to the United States.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Mary.
Q One more on China. How concerned is the President that China’s zero-COVID strategy and that these restrictions may be inhibiting the economic recovery globally and here at home?
MR. KIRBY: The President believes — and he’s said this many times — I mean, COVID absolutely has had an impact on the global economy. Certainly, it’s had an impact on supply chains and resources around the world. And that’s why the President wants to move the United States as quickly and as efficiently as we can through COVID so that — so that even our economy can get more on track than it already is becoming now.
So, I mean, it is having a global effect. But what is also having a very acute, significant global impact on the economy is the war in Ukraine. And that’s why we’re trying to go after a price cap on Russian oil. That’s why we’re trying to give Ukraine the tools and capabilities they need to succeed on the battlefield so this — this war can end, can end in a way in which Ukraine can be whole and sovereign and free.
So there’s a — there’s a lot of impacts on the global economy; it’s not just about COVID.
Q But beyond just COVID generally, I mean, does he think that China’s zero-COVID strategy — that these restrictions are inhibiting the economic recovery?
MR. KIRBY: The President recognizes that in many countries around the world, COVID is still an issue. And certainly, to the degree that it inhibits a country’s ability to conduct commerce, it’s having an impact on the world. And China is a huge economic competitor out there.
But I wouldn’t get into parsing the dollar-figure effect here of the remaining challenge of COVID in China. But clearly, China as a major economic player and China still struggling with COVID, there’s — obviously there’s an impact on the economy.
Q And just one more. On Paul Whelan, his brother said he missed a scheduled phone call home to his family on Thursday, which they say is incredibly unusual for him to miss a call, especially on a holiday like that. How concerned are you about this silence? Have you received any information on his condition? And just, can you give us any update on any progress that may or may not have been made?
MR. KIRBY: I’m afraid I don’t have an update for you. This is the first I’ve heard that there was a phone call that was missed. So why don’t you let me take that back and see if we can find out something for you? I don’t want to just speculate up here.
Obviously, we’re deeply concerned about him and — and Brittney Griner and all Americans wrongfully detained overseas. But let me take that question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All done, Mary? Okay. Go ahead, Phil.
Q Thank you. Two quick questions. One on China and then on Ukraine. I’m wondering, what is the President’s reaction when he hears protesters in China chant “freedom” or “Xi Jinping step down”?
MR. KIRBY: The President is not going to speak for protesters around the world; they’re speaking for themselves.
Q And so there’s no reaction?
MR. KIRBY: These protesters are speaking for themselves. What we are doing is making it clear that we support the right of peaceful protest.
Q And then, my follow-up: Is the backlog of arms shipments to Taiwan a result of our stepped-up efforts to send arms to Ukraine?
MR. KIRBY: What I can tell you is that we are constantly balancing, as we must, our own inventories, the inventories of our allies and partners and people that we do conduct arm sales with, as well as, of course, the inventory that the Ukrainian armed forces need to fight the Russian aggression.
And it’s a balancing act. And with every single decision by the President to draw down DOD stocks, you know, he gets an assessment from the Pentagon about whether that’s going to affect our readiness. And we’re in constant touch with, again, allies and partners about their readiness needs, because many of them are reliant on U.S. systems. And of course, you know, that includes Taiwan.
We just — the President just signed out — what, a month or so ago? — another billion dollars of Taiwan arm sales. And of course, we’re going to continue to look at what the next iteration of that needs to look like and when that would occur. But we take very seriously our responsibility to help provide Taiwan the self-defense capabilities that — that it needs. That’s in accordance with law and policy, and that’s not going to change.
Q But in terms of those shipments actually going out the door to Taiwan currently, is there a backlog when it comes to those arms being shipped?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to get into it at a public podium, talking about inventory stocks of any system anywhere. That just is not a good idea for — for us to do. Certainly not from the podium.
We — we watch it very closely. We make sure that our readiness can be preserved, as well as the readiness of our allies and partners.
But look, has — has all the provisions to Ukraine — has that — has that caused an effort inside the administration to make sure that we are — that we are judiciously monitoring stocks and inventories, and working with the defense industry to plus them up and to make sure that those supply chains are still flowing? Absolutely. They — of course — of course we are. But it’s a balance we strike every day.
Q Thank you, sir.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, way in the back there.
Q Thanks. John, regarding Turkey, many are skeptical regarding the Turkish claims that the PKK was behind the explosion in Istanbul. And now they are using this as a justification for a ground operation in Syria.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q Did the U.S. ask for evidence, or did you offer help for the investigation? Do you see this as a proper justification for a ground operation in Syria?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t believe we’ve — we’re — offered anything to help with the investigation. And we’re not in a position to — to say specifically who was responsible. We condemned the violence at the time. We condemn it today.
And as I’ve said as recently as a week or so ago, we do need to remember that Turkey continues to be — to fall victim to terrorist attacks, whether it’s near that border or elsewhere inside the country. And they have a right to — to defend themselves and their citizens against attacks.
Now, what we’ve said additionally is that we want to see the tensions de-escalate here. And we don’t want to see any actions that, A, lead to the potential of additional casualties, particularly civilian casualties. And, B, do anything that would harm our efforts to continue to work with our Syrian counterparts against ISIS, which remains a viable, credible threat inside Iraq and Syria, and we got to keep the pressure on them.
Q But is this a greenlight for Erdoğan to go inside Syria when you say they — they have the right to defend themselves?
MR. KIRBY: They do have the right to defend themselves. They had — they have — they have suffered terrorist attacks.
But we don’t want to see actions, particularly inside Syria, that are going to lead to a potential for more casualties, more loss of innocent life, and any diminution of our efforts — distraction away from our efforts, because we have troops in Syria that — to go after — to ISIS.
The other thing I would — I’d mentioned is we also don’t want to see any actions inside Syria, by Turkey or anyone else, that could put American lives at risk, because there are Americans on the ground, and they’re helping the SDF.
Q Thanks, John. There were some concrete steps moving the relationship forward, in terms of a bilateral basis, after the meeting between President Biden and Xi.
MR. KIRBY: Right.
Q Is there any concern or will that — those steps have any effect on how the U.S. responds to any Chinese response to the protests that are currently ongoing?
MR. KIRBY: I think we’re going to have to watch this going forward, Phil. What I can tell you is: As you and I are talking today, there’s — there’s been no change to our desire to continue to see these channels of communication stay open. And we were heartened coming away from the G20 that both leaders were able to agree on getting some of these working-level discussions back open.
And so, we’re still in that mode, Phil, where we want to continue to get those — get those discussions back up in play.
And as for whether or not there’ll be an impact from the protests, we’re just going to have to — I think we’re just — as I said, we’re going to watch this and see where it goes.
Q One more quick one. Apologies, Karine. We’re kind of in crunch time for the price cap you mentioned a few minutes ago.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q Is there a sense inside the White House right now that the President or the team will need to have more of a public posture in terms of trying to get this across the finish line? I know it’s kind of an EU-level issue right now, but —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I don’t think — Phil, I don’t think we’re at that point right now where we feel there’s some sort of inordinate pressure to — to be more public about it than we already have been. I think we’ve been very public about it. Or that, you know — you know, we need to smash down on the accelerator here.
The discussions are going well, we think. And we strongly believe that a price cap is a good approach, the right approach to limit Mr. Putin’s ability to profiteer off this war. And our EU colleagues are working through the modalities of it right now: how that would be implemented, what level it’s going to be at.
We think those discussions are going on in a pretty robust fashion, so I don’t think we believe there’s a pressure on us right now to get more involved than we already are.
Q Thanks, John.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Steve.
Q Thanks. John, I want to try to get your response to a letter that was sent by the leadership of five news organizations to the administration.
One of those news organizations is the New York Times. These organizations worked with Julian Assange prior to the publication of classified cables by WikiLeaks, and they’re asking that the administration drop the Espionage Act charge that was put forward against Assange by the Trump administration.
Generally, what’s the White House’s response to that request? And I’ll start there, and then I’ll ask you a follow-up.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, we’re aware of it, and we would refer you to the Justice Department
Q All right, I anticipated that answer. What is your assessment or what is the National Security Council’s assessment of the harm that was done by the WikiLeaks leak in 2012? That would inform any decision by the Justice Department.
MR. KIRBY: I think, you know, we — if you go back and look at how the administration responded in 2012 — and, of course, President Biden was then Vice President at the time — we would — we would maintain that we — that what — what we said at the time — what was said at the time, that those — that those leaks, those revelations in the public sphere were damaging to U.S. national security.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.)
Q Yeah, I just wanted to ask: The head of NATO is warning that, essentially, Vladimir Putin is using winter as a weapon of war against Ukraine. What specifically is the United States doing in conjunction with its partners and allies to counter that, given the continued attacks on the energy grid?
MR. KIRBY: So, you’re referring to the — his targeting of civilian infrastructure? Yeah.
So, I mean, this is a guy who’s used food as a weapon. He’s used fear as a weapon. He — and as — as our — as the Secretary-General of NATO said, now he’s using the coming cold weather here to basically try to bring the Ukrainian people to their knees.
When you take a look at what he’s hitting, it’s almost all civilian infrastructure. And it’s largely — as you pointed out — it’s energy, it’s water, it’s the kind of resources that people need as they get ready to brace for what will no doubt be a cold winter.
And so, what we’re doing is a couple of things. First of all, we’re still going to continue to provide the Ukrainian armed forces with the tools, weapons, the capabilities, the training that they need so that they can be successful on the battlefield. And they have been very successful in just the last few weeks.
Secondly, we’re working with allies and partners around the world — and certainly working inside the various agencies of this administration — to get spare parts, equipment, transformers, the kinds of material they’ll need to get some of these systems and networks back up and running and get the power turned back on in much of Ukraine — as well as, of course, water resources. So, we’re working on that very, very hard — again, with allies and partners.
It’s — some of the material will no doubt come from the United States. But we also recognize that their grid is based on infrastructure that is uniquely European. And so, we’re going to — we’re working with, again, allies and partners in the region as well to see what they can do to get — to get more in there to keep the lights on and the water running.
But it’s despicable. It’s absolutely despicable what he is doing in these last few weeks. Not that he hasn’t been despicable before, but you — you hit exactly on the issue, that these targets are largely civilian. And it’s designed to want — for one reason, and that’s to try to bring the Ukrainian people to their knees, because he can’t bring the Ukrainian armed forces to its knees.
And you would think that now — going into, I guess it’s eight months now, which is hard to believe — actually going into our ninth month here — that he would have learned — he, Putin, would have learned a while ago that you just can’t bring the Ukrainian people to their knees.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Two more. Go ahead.
Q Kim Jong Un says he is trying to build the most powerful nuclear force. Do you expect the North Koreans to conduct a nuclear test in the near future?
MR. KIRBY: We’ve said that we believe Kim could conduct a nuclear test at any time.
Q Okay. One more. His daughter made a public appearance twice this month. What do you think about her appearance? Why suddenly now?
MR. KIRBY: I certainly can’t speak to the parenting skills of Kim Jong Un. I’m afraid I don’t have anything for you there. (Laughter.)
Look, in all seriousness, the man continues to advance military capabilities that continue to destabilize the region — not just the Peninsula but the region. And we’re taking this seriously, which is why we’re improving our intelligence capabilities there, collection capabilities in the region.
It’s why we’re working so hard with Japan and South Korea bilaterally and trilaterally. The President had a chance to meet with both leaders while we were at the G20 to advance our own defense capabilities and our own defense needs.
People sometimes forget and I’ve said it a lot; you guys probably roll your eyes when I say this because I’ve said it before, but five of our seven treaty alliances, because since we — since we started the briefing talking about alliances — five of seven are in the Indo-Pacific, and we take them seriously because they put on us very significant security commitments to help with the defense of Japan and South Korea, respectively, in this case. And we take that seriously, which means we got to make sure we’re ready for the kinds of capabilities that he clearly is so interested in continuing to pursue.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Gerren. And then, Monica, you’ll have the last question.
Q Thanks, Karine. Thanks, John. There have been reports about the penal colony that Brittney Griner is being held, indicating that she potentially is exposed to forced labor and homophobia and racism. Is there any update about her physical and mental health?
And I know CIA Director Burns did meet with his counterpart in Russia. Are there any plans to have another meeting between officials, between U.S. and Russia, to specifically discuss this ongoing negotiation to get her home?
MR. KIRBY: Great questions, both of them. On the — on the second one, we continue to have ongoing conversations with Russian officials about Brittney’s release, as well as Mr. Whelan’s, in trying to get them home to their families where they belong. I can assure you that those conversations are ongoing, and we want them both home as fast as possible, and this administration is going to stay committed to that task.
On her condition, I think you can understand, for — for privacy reasons, I’m not going to get into much detail about her physical health. I wouldn’t do that. I can just tell you that we’re taking that very seriously as well, knowing where she is and what penal colonies are designed to do. And we’re making — we’re trying to make sure we have as much access and information about her condition as possible. Sometimes that’s done more through her representatives than it is from our diplomatic presence just because of the modalities of it. But we’re doing the best we can to stay on top of it as much as we can.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Monica, last question.
Q John, can you share any update on whether President Biden will accept the invitation of Mexican President López Obrador to attend the “Three Amigos” summit in Mexico City? I know that had been talked about as potentially scheduled for December. It now may be pushed back to January. Is there anything you can share on that?
MR. KIRBY: The North American Leaders’ Summit? Yeah. The President is looking forward to being able to have — to have that meeting. But we don’t have a date yet or anything to say on the schedule. Nothing to confirm on the schedule right now. But he’s looking forward to the discussion, absolutely.
Q Thanks, John.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, guys. Happy late Thanksgiving to
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, John.
Okay, before we dive into questions, just, I have a couple things — a few updates at the top to share with all of you.
As you know, President Biden committed to doing everything within his power to address Putin’s price hike at the pump.
Today, gas prices have returned to the levels they were prior to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. As the chart behind me shows, the national average is $3.55 per gallon down over $1.45 per gallon from the June peak. The most common price is $2.99 per gallon. That’s saving American families with two cars about $160 per month, on average.
This is important breathing room for American families and meets a key commitment that the President made to them. So, it’s no accident either — on a couple of things. President Biden has been releasing oil from the reserve, as you know, which was a historic action that this President took. He called on international partners to release oil as well. And he’s been calling on oil and gas companies to pass on their savings to consumers at the pump. The President’s actions have helped bring prices down for families, and he will continue to do everything possible to bring prices down even further.
Earlier today, the President signed a Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence to strengthen the U.S. government’s effort to combat rape as a weapon of war.
This Presidential Memorandum directs the State Department, Treasury Department, and other federal agency to leverage sanctions authorities, assistance restrictions, and other tools to promote accountability for perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence.
With this executive action, U.S. departments and agency are for the first time ever being directed to ensure equal consideration of acts of conflict-related sexual violence when identifying targets and preparing designations for potential sanctions.
Under President Biden’s leadership, the United States will continue leading efforts to rally other nations and international organizations to prevent and promote accountability for acts of conflict-related sexual violence.
Today’s action is part of the President’s broader commitment to work to address all forms of gender-based violence.
Now, finally, today, President Biden met with three U.S. winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize: Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry; Dr. John Clauser, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics; and Dr. Douglas Diamond, who won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.
The President is restarting an important tradition that just like — just like he does for winning sports teams, as you have seen him do in the past 20 months or so, the President meets with U.S. winners of the Nobel Prize.
Their achievements show how taking on the biggest questions can establish new fields of inquiry, promote technology, innovation, and expand the boundaries of what is possible. Their work is a reminder of why the President often says that the — America can be defined by one word, and you all know that word that he uses is “possibilities.”
With that, I’m going to go out of school for a second. And I know there’s a young reporter in the room who would like to ask a question. Eva? Eva Shapiro?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sha- — oh, pardon me. And where are you from? What —
Q Austin, Texas.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Austin, Texas. And you are part of the Kid’s Scoop —
Q KidScoop Media.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Well, welcome to the briefing room. It’s great to have you. And you could — you’re going to trump AP. And — (laughs) — I’ll take your first question.
Q Given the situation in Iran with protesting, what are we going to do or what can we do to help?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that’s an excellent question and an important question to ask. And we have answered this question multiple times here at the at this podium, and the President spoke to this when he was in the — in the halls of the United Nations not too long ago in September. And he said, “We stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.” End quote.
There’s a lot that we can do and a lot that we are doing to support those brave citizens, again, of Iran — those brave protesters. We’re taking steps both on our own, as the United States, and also in partnership with other countries just around the world, and including organizations like the United Nations, as I mentioned, when the President first made his comments about what we were seeing in Iran from the civilians.
But let me just give you a couple of examples. We’re using economic tools like sanctions against Iranian officials. We supported the U.N. Human Rights Council’s vote to create a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights abuses in Iran, which — which was really historic, something that we had not seen.
So, we’re working with civil society organizations to make sure Iran is removed from a United Nations body focused on women, called the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. We have expressed support for the Joint Statement by Women Foreign Ministers on Iran. And we’re speaking out over and over again, and raising awareness and making sure that those brave women and citizens are lifted up as they are really fighting for their basic rights.
But thank you so much for your question. I really appreciate you. And again, welcome — welcome to the briefing room. Hopefully you come back.
All right. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. And welcome to the briefing room. On — two and a half weeks ago, when the President held his press conference after the midterm results, he said he’d be inviting congressional leadership of both parties over to the White House after his trip to the G20. We’re a week-plus since he’s been back. Has that invite gone out? And when is that meeting going to take place?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, Congress has just returned, so the President is looking forward to talking to, speaking with — to Democratic and Republican leadership. I don’t have anything to preview for you at this time on a date on when that will happen. But he is — this is something that he is indeed looking forward to, and we will make that happen as soon as we can.
Q Today is this deadline for counties to certify election results in a number of states, including Arizona, where at least one county has refused to certify the results of the midterm elections from a couple weeks ago, citing the conduct of the election in another county, in Maricopa County. Does the White House — is the White House monitoring, sort of, state-level and local- and county-level efforts to, sort of, overturn election results or not certify election results? And does the President have any response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the — very good question. I don’t have anything to share on if we’re monitoring anything specific or in particular. I’m sure that’s something the DNC is doing, and other committees are clearly focusing on on those particulars very closely.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. No, but I — we’ve been very clear on the sacred right to vote and how — you know, and how it’s important that the American people feel like their vote will be counted.
And that — and he has denounced the election deniers that we have heard from on the other side, and he has called that out, and he has every confidence in our electoral system.
Q And then, just lastly, we know those rail negotiations are — seem to be nearing impasse. There’s a report in the Washington Post that the President plans to ask Congress to step in and either extend the cooling-off period for talks or take some other measures to try to prevent a potentially devastating shutdown of the rail system in the next couple of weeks.
Does — can you confirm that the President does plan to ask Congress to step in and take action here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I don’t have anything right now at this time to announce or preview on any announcement that the President is going to make. Once he is ready to make that announcement, certainly, he — we will let you know — or make an announcement of any kind related to this, we will clearly share that with all of you.
I do want to say a couple of things, which is really important as we look at what’s currently happening. Look, from the beginning, the President has been very clear: A shutdown is unacceptable because of the impact that it would have on jobs and families and farms and businesses and communities just across the country.
The President is directly involved in the process and has been engaged with his team and also has had conversation with members of Congress on this particular issue in case — in case resolving the issue — in case resolving the issue falls to them, as it has 18 times in the last 60 years, as you know. I know you guys are following this closely.
And in addition — in addition to the President’s involvement, Secretary Walsh has been in contact with rail workers, the unions there. He has been in direct connection — contact with them. Secretary Buttigieg has been in contact with rail companies. And Secretary Vilsack has engaged agriculture and industry stakeholders as well.
So, this has been very much not just the President but, clearly, the three Secretaries that I just mentioned in his administration.
A majority of unions, as you all know, have voted to ratify the — the temporary agreement. That’s 8 out of 12. There are 12 unions involved. And the best option that we believe, that the President believes, is still for the parties to resolve these themselves, res- — resolve this themselves and to do this, really, in short order.
Q Members of the Democratic National Committee are meeting here in Washington later this week to talk about the potential calendar for the party’s presidential nomination process in 2024. They’re doing this, in essence, at the behest of the President, who has signaled that he’s not a huge fan of Iowa going first, given the lack of diversity in that state.
Can you say whether he intends to weigh in on this issue as or before they meet, or if he indeed believes that Iowa should lose its first-in-the-nation status?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this is not something that I’m going to speak to from here. This is something that the Democratic National Committee, as you know, is — that committee that you’re speaking of is out of the DNC. And so, I would refer you to them specifically.
I don’t have anything else to preview or to share about any comments or statements that the President may make on this particular issue.
But again, from here, I’m not going to comment from — on this. I would refer you to the — to the DNC.
Q Are there any plans for the President to go to Georgia in the final days of the Senate runoff?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ve been asked this question before about what the President is — could potentially be doing for the Georgia runoff. I have to be careful because it is an existing — existing race that is happening. And so, I cannot — I am covered by the Hatch Act, so I can’t speak specifically to this.
But what I can say, and I’ve said this before: The President is willing to do whatever is needed of him by Senator Warnock. I don’t have anything else to preview from here.
Q So does that mean that the ask hasn’t been made from Senator Warnock (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I really — I just — I don’t want to dive into request or asks. That’s something that we didn’t do during the midterms the past several months. We’re certainly not going to start now.
What I can say: I don’t have anything to preview for you at this time or to announce. But again, the President is willing to do whatever is asked of him.
Q The Boston Globe is reporting that the President is going to be in Boston on Friday for a fundraiser. Can you confirm that trip? And then, also, they note that that day the Royals will be in Boston as well for the Earthshot Prize. Is there potentially going to be an overlap or meeting? Or will the President —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I heard about that. This is the — the Prince of Wales is going to be — so — (laughter) — I don’t have anything to share on the President’s travels for — any traveling announcement to make for Friday or any — any future date after tomorrow. As you all know, he’ll be going to Michigan.
Once we have something to share, certainly, we will share that. And as far as the — the Royals being in town, I don’t have anything to preview as well.
Q Finally, the President said he did a part of his annual physical while he was talking about — answering a question about this specifically in Nantucket. And he said he would do the rest before the end of the year. What did he mean by that? And then will be — he be going to Walter Reed, as he did last year in the next couple of weeks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that’s a good question. I haven’t — I actually have not talked to him about that. I remember him saying that over the weekend.
Look, I was asked this question just at the last briefing. You know, the President is in good health and maintains an active lifestyle. You see him on a — almost on a regular basis yourselves. And you can see — he always says, “Watch me.”
He will have a physical in the upcoming months. And the results will be, certainly, released, as — the same way as it was last year, in a very transparent way. And we will be sharing with — that with all of you as soon as — as soon as we have it.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q Thanks. Just to go back to the rail labor dispute. What would drive the President to seek a congressional resolution here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to legislate from here. What I can say is we have been in regular communication with Congress for the past several months. But certainly not going to legislate or — or lay out the process from here.
Q Let me ask you this: In 1992, the last time Congress intervened to prevent a labor rail shutdown, Joe Biden was one of six senators, and only six, to say that the Congress should not intervene, that it’s a dynamic that favors the railroads against the interests of the workers. Why would he seek congressional intervention now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, again, I can’t — I’m — when the President has made a decision on this, if he makes a decision on this, you’ll hear directly from him. Don’t have anything to share or preview at this time.
As I mentioned moments ago, the President has been in regular contact with members of Congress. He has been directly involved in having those conversations, directly involved with his administration. I laid out what Secretary Walsh is doing, what Secretary Buttigieg and Secretary Vilsack —
This is something that has been a priority for this President and this administration for the past several months. Majority — as I just laid out, also, moments ago — of unions have ratified the tentative agreement.
Again, I’m not going to legislate from here, not going to get into — get ahead of any potential announcement. But as you stated, in cases like this, issues falls to Congress. And it has done this 18 times in the last 60 years.
So, again, it’s not unusual, but I’m just not going to get into a hypothetical from here at this time.
Q A couple questions about the lame duck agenda. The President said last week that he was going to try to ban assault weapons during the session. What does that look like? Is he making calls? Is he taking meetings on this? Has he tasked the team with working on this? And does he think that 60 votes are actually possible here, that’s within reach somehow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m so glad you asked the question, Mary, because this morning, when I was in the Oval Office in a meeting with the President, he actually brought this up himself, because he knows how his comments were reported over the weekend. And he wanted to be very clear, and he said that, you know, he believes that it’s important to keep this issue — in banning assault weapons — at the front of minds of Americans.
He believes that it is — it is — it is also up to him, as President of the United States, to make the case for why it is critical to move forward with assault — assault weapons ban.
And so he — he — look, he understands what’s at stake. He wants the American people to continue to understand what’s at stake. We know many communities have felt this very deeply, very personally.
And he also believes — you know, there were families this past — this past Thanksgiving holiday who looked around their table and they were missing members of their family because of this gun violence, this horrific gun violence that we have seen as recently as this weekend, as recently as just last week. And he believes that they deserve — they deserve to — for us, for him, to continue to talk about this, continue to put this out there about the importance of getting this done for American communities.
But again, look, we understand it’s an uphill battle. We understand that this is not easy. He gets that. But it doesn’t mean that he’s going to stop fighting for it or that he’s going to stop talking about it.
Q And on one other issue, raising the debt ceiling: We’ve seen Republicans who have threatened to use this as leverage to get some of their agenda items through. How much importance does the President placed on raising the debt ceiling during a lame duck session?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, we’ve been clear about this: When it comes to the debt ceiling, it should not — it should not be used — or never be a matter of political brinksmanship. We’ve been very clear about that.
And congr- — you know, congressional Republicans, they passed this with the last President three times — the former President. They — they passed to lift the debt ceiling three times. There’s no reason why this should not be happening this time around.
The Congress, you know, needs to take the responsibility, once again, to address the debt ceiling before it expires. And they need to act sooner rather than later.
Look, now that Congress is back, we believe that, you know, there will be more of an urgency to get this done.
And look, this is — this is about, you know, the sooner they act — you know, this is about our economy. This will be better for our economy. So we’re — have those conversation.
The President, as I was asked moments ago, is going to meet with leadership from both the Hou- — from both the House and the Senate, the Democratic and Republican leadership. And certainly we’ll be having these conversations.
Q You just laid out for us the gas price — that prices are back down to levels before the war. Housing prices, on the other hand, are not coming down nearly fast enough. Given the split Congress — you know, we’ve talked about some of the difficulty of the lame-duck session — I mean, have you run out of options in terms of pressing down housing prices? And what can you do to help people there, especially if the student debt issue doesn’t, you know, go your way?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we are — as the President said, to your — to your last statement about the student debt relief, his relief plan — he’s optimistic. He’s an optimistic person. He’s going to continue to fight for a plan that’s going to help close to 40 million Americans across the country. And let’s not forget 90 percent of them are making less than $75,000 a year. That matters. That is a plan that is going to give people a little bit of breathing room.
So we are — we are confident in our — in our — in our legal standing, if you will. As you know, it’s up — it’s up to the Supreme Court, and we’re going to continue to fight. That will not end.
But to your question: Look, affor- — housing affordability is a central challenge for families; we know that — as you just laid that out, Andrea. And that’s due to longstanding shortfall of affordable housing, plus increased demand for homes during the pandemic and a reduced number of homes due to previous supply chain challenges.
So the good news is this: that we are starting to see the housing market cool by a range of measures just a bit. Several data sources now show that rent falling are — or rent growth easing in recent months, which should mean lower shelter inflation on months ahead.
And — but we understand, and we get it. As I just said, it’s a central issue for many families and many Americans. There’s more work to do. And we will continue to — to use all of the administrative tools to make sure that we give — we continue to give families some relief.
Q Just a question about Twitter. You know, there’s a researcher at Stanford who says that this is a critical moment, really, in terms of ensuring that Twitter does not become a vector for misinformation. I mean, are you concerned about the — you know, Elon Musk says there’s more and more subscribers coming online. Are you concerned about that? And what tools do you have? Who is it at the White House that is really keeping track of this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this is something that we’re certainly keeping an eye on. And, look, we — you know, we have always been very clear and — that when it comes to social media platforms, it is their responsibility to make sure that when it comes to misinformation, when we — when it comes to the hate that we’re seeing, that they take action, that they continue to take action.
Again, we’re all keeping a close eye on this. We’re all monitoring what’s — what’s currently occurring. And we see — you know, we see it with our own eyes of what you all are reporting and, just for ourselves, what’s happening on Twitter.
But again, social media companies have a responsibility to prevent their platforms from being used by any user to incite violence, especially violence directed at individual communities, as we have been seeing. And the President has been very clear on calling that out. He’ll continue to do that. And we’re going to continue to monitor the situation.
Go ahead, Phil.
Q Thanks, Karine. I don’t think the President has spoken to the House Republican leader since the day after the election, even though the House was called for Republicans a few days later. Does that have anything to do with the fact that he may not actually be Speaker of the House next Congress? Or how are you guys kind of working through that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, no, I — that — I mean, Congress has been out. They’re just coming back in.
Look, the President has been really clear, and he’s underscored this many times, that he’s here to find common ground and work across the aisle. That is something that he has done while he’s been President here — the CHIPS and Science Act, as you — you all know. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is something that he’s been — he’s done as well. And he has signed into law more than 200 pieces of legislation that were bipartisan.
So, look, he’s looking forward to having those conversations with congressional Republicans. And — and what his focus is, and he’s been very clear about this, is delivering for the American people, continuing to give them that little bit of breathing room.
And once we have that meeting set, we certainly will share that.
Q And then, when it comes to the lame-duck, you talk about the bipartisanship idea. He’s going to need at least 10 Republicans on a government spending package if an omnibus is going to move forward. Has he been given any signals by Senate Republican leadership that there will be 10 Republicans for an overarching full fiscal year deal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, when it comes to the government funding, you know, our efforts to secure the needed government funding are in good hands with our OMB Director Shalanda Young. She is not new to this. As you know, she did — we — we — we were able to get this done in a bipartisan fashion just last year, and so she knows how to reach across the aisle. And so we are confident that we will get this done.
And, you know, we have been — our Office of Leg Affairs, the office — office at OMB, as well, has been in — has had multiple calls with congressional members and staffers and also have done briefings about how important it is in reaching an agreement — a full-year appropriations agreement and the dangers of passing the buck yet again.
And not only that — I think you all saw, just last night, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary Austin, put out a letter he wrote to Congress, and he said — he said — he warned that a continuing resolution of any length would “result in significant harm” to the American people, military programs, and our national security, and our competitiveness.
We have to remember the programs that we’re talking about are not partisan programs; they are programs that’s going to help American families. We’re talking about education. We’re talking, as I just mentioned, as the Secretary said, our national security. You know, we’re talking about things that really, truly matter to the American people: education, cutting-edge technology. All of these things are not — are not partisan issues. And so we should be able to get this done in a bipartisan way just like we did last year.
Q Thanks, Karine. You mentioned earlier about how passing an assault weapons ban would be an uphill battle, especially given the breakdown in Congress. I wonder if there are other things the President is considering, whether it’s executive authority or calling on state governors to take action at the state level. What are some of the other things that are — that the President is considering?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, so let me just first state — I get your question, but let me just first state a couple of things. Number one, this President has taken more executive action in his first — first year and a half on dealing with gun violence than any other President. And that shows his commitment in what he has been able to do and wanting to make sure to protect our communities. And so I just want to be very clear on that.
And let’s not forget, just a couple of months ago, there was a bipartisan legislation on protecting our communities to really deal with the effects of gun violence. And so that is something that happened. That was the first time we were able to see that type of legislation in 30 years.
So, again, I have said this: The President is an optimist, but he also understands that it is — he sees it as his responsibility to continue to make the case. I don’t have anything else to preview as to any additional executive action that will be taken from here.
But again, we have seen action on this during his presidency that we hadn’t seen in 30 years.
Q I got another question about tomorrow. The President is going to Michigan. Do you have a preview on what he plans to say and sort of what that portends for his future travel during the lame duck and into the new Congress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I actually do. I have something to share for you all to preview.
So, as you just mentioned, the President is going to be going to Michigan, specifically Bay City, Michigan, to discuss the American manufacturing boom.
Thanks to his economic strategy, the President will visit a ma- — a new manufacturing facility recently opened by SK siltron, which last year announced a $300 million expansion of its Michigan operations.
During his remarks, President Biden will highlight his economic plan is leading to a manufacturing boom, growing the economy, and creating good-paying jobs in Michigan and also just across the country as well.
As you all know, the economy has created more than 700,000 manufacturing jobs. And that is 10 million total jobs created under this President in his first almost two years here in — in the White House.
He will also discuss Democrats’ success in the midterm elections in Michigan, thanks to our efforts to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out to protect democracy, as you’ve heard the President speak to, and to protect women’s reproductive healthcare, which is something that the President and the Vice President is committed to doing.
I would expect more coming from us this evening. We usually do a background call or have some information out there for you all to just lay out exactly what you can expect from — from the trip.
Q On the rail issue again, you know, when this was — the tentative agreement was announced a few months back, it sort of let — it was after — what? — an hours-long overnight meeting with all of the parties involved, with the Labor Secretary.
Have the talks reached that level of intensity, that level of engagement with the administration? And if not, is that a strategy we would see employed again, essentially putting all of the parties in a room overnight, however long it takes, and nobody leaves us until there’s a deal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, totally appreciate the question. Look, the President has been very clear: A shutdown will be unacceptable.
As I mentioned, Secretary Walsh has been in direct contact with the unions — the rail unions. Secretary Buttigieg has been in touch with the rail companies. And — and Secretary Vilsack has been in touch with the agricultural sector. So, we have been in regular touch with folks, and we’re continuing to do that.
The President has had multiple conversations, has been directly involved with his administration and also members of Congress.
And so, what we believe and what we will continue to say is that we think — and what should be happening in good faith — is that they should come up with a solution. And majority of the unions have ratified this. You have 8 out of the 12, which is important to also note.
But again, this is — I’m just not going to get into any details on what else we can — other efforts that
we might be taking.
Q So there’s no meeting, like, that’s been planned or set with every — every representative?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have — I don’t have anything to preview about convening everyone here all at once. But it matters. It matters that Secretary Walsh has been in direct contact with the rail workers. It matters that Secretary Buttigieg has been in touch with the companies. And it matters, for certain, that Secretary Vilsack has been in touch with Ag — the agricultural sector. And that’s going to continue. Those conversations will continue to happen.
Again, the President has been very clear: A shutdown is unacceptable. It will hurt families, communities across the country. It will hurt jobs, it will hurt farms, it will hurt businesses, and it should not be happening.
Q One question. The U.S. Embassy to the Dominican Republic issued a warning to U.S. citizens about those traveling to D.R. that those that are dark skinned were being targeted. This as Dominican Republic is dealing with more deportations of Haitians.
And so, my question is: Is there anything that — any response or actions from the administration in light of this warning that’s come out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, when it comes to the warnings, that comes from the Secretary of State, so I would refer you to them on the specifics and the particulars of that — of that warning and would just let them speak to it themselves.
Q I just wanted to ask a quick follow-up. The President has said repeatedly that of course he wants to ban assault weapons. But on Thanksgiving, when he was in Nantucket, he said, quote, “The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick.”
Obviously, that’s a huge category of guns, from rifles to pistols to shotguns, that are not assault weapons. So, I guess my question here is: Did the President misspeak or does he, in fact, want to ban all semi-automatic guns?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, he was — he was talking about assault weapons. That’s what he was talking about on that — on that morning or that afternoon when he was asked that question.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Great. Go ahead.
Q As you know, former President Donald Trump had a dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, a known white nationalist. Does — is the White House concerned that former President and, more importantly, a current candidate for President is meeting with someone who is known to foster racist and antisemitic views?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m not going to respond to everything that happens with the former President. But this — this is something that’s important that we speak very clear about and we speak very — very forcefully about.
This administration, this President totally rejects bigotry, racism, antisemitism. And there is just no place for these types of vile forces in our society. And this is something that we are going to continue to deny, including Holocaust deniers.
And let’s not forget, when you say things like this, when you — when you do not speak out against these type of poisonous and dangerous kind of remarks or representation, if you will, that is — that is also incredibly dangerous within itself.
And so, we need to — we should all be condemning this, and we should be very clear — very clear and say it in really absolute, clear terms. And again, this is something that we condemn and we will continue to speak out against.
Q A quick one on the World Cup. So, just while we were sitting here, a man with a — carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a T-shirt saying “Free” — oh, no, rather, “Respect for Iranian Women” — ran across the pitch and, you know, was then taken away.
So, first of all, is the President going to be — I know he’s traveling tomorrow and he’s got to give a speech and so on, but it’s right around the time of the big game. Is he going to be — is he going to be, basically, kept abreast of, you know, how that’s going?
And just on the political side, what does he feel about the rights of people to do things like what this man did just now — wave a — wave an LGBT flag and call out for Iranian women?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just more broadly, and, you know, we’ll — we’ll say this: Look, we — we urge the State of Qatar and all Qataris to fully realize the Amir’s message here. And that — that is to truly recognize and welcome everyone to the cup — to the World Cup.
And we’ve been very clear about that. We’ve said that many times before. We are concerned of — over the potential treatment of LGBTQ+ spectators and athletes. And — and, you know, this is something that the President will call out: any type of human rights abuses. He is — he is not shy and has been very clear raising these issues. And he’ll continue to do that.
And look, when it comes to the game tomorrow, clearly the President will be kept — kept abreast of how that particular game is going. But, as you know, we will be going — we’ll be traveling to Michigan tomorrow.
Q Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thanks, everybody.
4:00 P.M. EST