James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:18 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. All right, today the Vice President and the Second Gentleman visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to attend the launch of the Artemis I mission. Despite the launch being pulled down, we look forward to it happening when NASA says all systems are ready.
While at the Kennedy Space Center, the Vice President and Second Gentleman met with STEM students, astronauts, and workers building the crew modules for Artemis II, which will be the first crewed Artemis mission, and Artemis III, which will return American astronauts to the Moon, including the first woman and person of color.
As you may have seen, today we announced that the Biden Harris administration will host the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on September 28th in Washington, D.C.
As the President said a few months ago, this will be the first conference of this kind in more than 50 years. The conference will bring together government leaders, academics, activists, and Americans from all walks of life to achieve the goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases in the U.S. by 2030. A key additional focus will be reducing disparities among the communities who are impacted the most by these issues.
At the conference, we will announce a national strategy that identifies actions the government will take to encourage the public and private sectors to drive transformative change and address the intersections between food, hunger, nutrition, and health.
With that, Zeke, you want to take it away?
Q Thanks, Karine. Over the weekend, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said they were conducting a risk assessment of the classified documents found at former President Trump’s home in Florida. Does the President intend to get briefed on — on that risk assessment once it’s completed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we have seen the letter from ODNI to Congress on this, but I would refer you to either ODNI or the Justice Department by any specific questions on this.
As we have said, this involves material that is part of an ongoing criminal investigation, and we just aren’t going to comment on that at this time. I hear your question; we just don’t — we’re not going to say anything at this time while the investigation is going on.
Q This is about the President’s actions, not what they’re doing there. So does he — you can’t say whether or not he’ll be briefed on —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I can say that he has not been briefed. I know folks have asked, you know, if he has been briefed via the PDB or otherwise on any classified materials. That — I can say, as a general matter — we just don’t get into information included in the President’s classified materials — this is what this would be considered — or daily briefings on sensitive national security or intelligence matters. This is ODNI — a decision that they’ve made. So talking about any PDB specifically would be inappropriate or any classified, again, material.
On this specific issue, we have been very clear the President was not briefed in advance of this Justice Department’s recent actions. We have not been involved in this matter as part of the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation. We see this as part of the underlying material that is connected to this.
So, you know, we’re — as we’ve said, we are committed to the independence with — as it relates to any legal matters that the Department of Justice has. And that is something that the President has been very clear about and is going to continue.
Q But just to, again, put a finer point on it: The President will get briefed or will not get briefed when ODNI finishes the risk assessment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just — I am just saying to you this is an underlying material — underlying matter that is related to this. We’re just not going to comment. And as it relates to any classified materials or anything that’s related to PD- — PDB, we don’t comment on that at all.
But, you know, again, this is a part of an investigation. The President hasn’t been briefed on any of this. He — none of us have been briefed. The White House not has been briefed on any of this. And so, we are just going to leave it to the Department of Justice and to ODNI on this.
Q And on a different topic, tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of when the President marked the end of U.S. — the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the war there. How does the President plan to mark that occasion? Does he plan to speak to the American people? Does he plan to honor the lives of the 13 servicemembers who were lost at Abbey Gate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, last week, on Friday, we did put out — the President put out a statement — released a statement where he named each of the 13 troops who were tragically killed that day.
The President feels deeply about the loss that was suffered one year ago. And as he said in that statement just this past Friday, he feels strongly that we owe their families support for the rest of their lives. We are never going to stop seeking justice for those who were involved in planning of the attack or for terrorists who threaten our homeland in any way.
No President feels more strongly about this than this President — about our troops than this President and their families. And this President — and he and the First Lady have taken action to support our servicemembers and their families through Joining Forces and signing the historic pits legislation.
I don’t have anything else to share with you on any future statements that he may make.
Q Nothing (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nothing to share about any — anything on his schedule. As you know, he’s going to be traveling tomorrow.
Q One more question on the DNI. They’re assessing whether bringing those classified documents to Mar-a-Lago damaged national security or jeopardized national intelligence operations. Does the President feel that the public has a right to know the conclusion of that assessment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m — we’re just not going to comment about conclusions. We’re not going to comment on anything related to this at this time, any specifics to this. We are going to refer all these questions to ODNI and also the Department of Justice. We’re just not going to com- —
Q But it’s a question about transparency not —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I —
Q — on the investigation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I understand. I understand the question. Any underlying materials, any underlying questions to this, we’re just not going to comment. Of course, it’s important to have transparency, but we’re just not going to go any further than that.
Q And then, on another topic, the President has a lot of travel coming up. He’s been getting out more in the country, mostly, you know, doing events sort of touting his agenda, things that — his accomplishments and the like. Are we going to see him actually, as we approach the midterms, stumping for individual candidates? Are we going to see more big rallies, like — like he did last week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, I can only speak to official travel from here; I can’t speak to any of the campaign or political travel. The President, the Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries, our Hill allies, governors, mayors, and allied groups will take the message directly to the American people.
As you know, we had a string of successful legisla- — legislative pieces just a couple of weeks ago. And so, in the coming weeks, the President will host a Cabinet meeting here; host an Inflation Reduction Act celebration event at the White House, which is going to happen on September 13th, as you all know; and will travel across the country to highlight how the Inflation Reduction Act will save money on prescription drugs, cut healthcare premiums, and cut energy costs.
Other upcoming events will illustrate how President Biden worked to get things done, including passing a historic gun safety law and making smart investments to keep our competitive edge and rebuild American manufacturing through the CHIPS and Science Act and bipartisan law.
The President will attend a groundbreaking at Intel in Ohio, as you all know, to address his safe — Safer America plan that helps fight crime and make communities safer while in Pennsylvania, which is happening tomorrow, and highlight the American Rescue Plan along the way.
And so, that’s going to be our focus: to get our message out, to talk — to speak directly to the American people on how congressional Democrats and this President delivered.
Again, I can’t get into specific — specific or any campaign trail or what we’re doing politically, but that’s what we’re doing on the official side.
Q The President has at least two trips scheduled to Pennsylvania in the next week. He’s — and he traveled there more than any other state last year. Obviously, he’s from Pennsylvania, but is there any other significance to him visiting that state?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All I can say is Pennsylvania is close and dear to his heart and he is glad to be traveling there these next couple of trips, as you just mentioned.
Go ahead, Nancy.
Q Thank you so much. Going back to the topic that Zeke brought up, there’s been a lot of confusion. I’m wondering if you can shed any light on this question of whether this White House or this President believes that a President has the ability to declassify classified documents simply by saying so.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we want to be very careful here, as you know. We’re just not going to speak — it is really — the question that you’re asking me is related to everything that is happening currently right now with the Department of Justice and even ODNI as they — as I said, we’re aware of the letter. We did not have any advanced knowledge of the — of the letter.
Right now, we are — at this time, we’re just not going to make comments on any questions related to this, any underlying questions, any content that is related to what we’re currently seeing, that — the Department of Justice is independently working on an investigation that is independent, and we’re just not going to comment at this time.
Q So, you can’t say what this President believes the process is that he needs to go through when he wants to declassify that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to — because it’s related to what we’re all hearing and you all are reporting about, I’m just not going to comment on it at this time.
Q When the President speaks about guns tomorrow in Wilkes-Barre, is there a new policy he’s going to be laying out? What can you tell us about what he’s going to say on that issue tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have some — some preview for you on this. So, tomorrow, President Biden will be traveling about — about his Safer America Plan and the simple, basic notion that, when it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer isn’t to defund the police, it’s to fund the police.
He will highlight how his plan would invest 100 more cops for effective, accountable community policing that builds public trust and strengthens public safety.
And as part of the American Rescue Plan — you’ve heard us say this — that President Biden signed into law last year, we sent $350 billion to local governments to keep cops on the beat. And in contrast, every Republican in Congress voted against the funding for law enforcement. And Trump — also Donald Trump cut $400 billion from his budget for state and local law enforcement.
So, the President is going to talk about how he brought the Democrats and Republicans together earlier this month to pass the most significant safety law in 30 years. He’ll talk about how we have built on that momentum and how we must act on ban assault weapons. You’ll hear that from him as well.
So, again, a majority of Americans support this when we talk about banning assault weapons; the NRA opposes it. And so we are going to hear from the President about — about the importance of making sure that we protect our communities.
You know, the President has been really clear that congressional Republicans — that extreme MAGA agenda that you heard him talk about last week is a threat to the rule of law.
We will say that — he will say that you can’t propose defunding the FBI or defund the mob that stormed the Capitol and attacked and assaulted police officers on January 6th and pre- — and be pro-police. And that’s what you’re going to hear from the President tomorrow.
Q And then, finally, Senate candidate Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman says he is going to be at the parade in Pittsburgh on Labor Day and, quote, he “looks forward to talking to the President there about the need to finally decriminalize marijuana.”
The President has said in the past we need to rethink our approach. Has he decided how he wants to rethink the approach? Does he agree with John Fetterman?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have anything right now to announce. But I just want to talk a little bit and take a step back to talk about the drug — our drug policy that we — that we have been very clear about, but I’ll leave some stuff here.
We’re — we’re at an urgent moment when it comes to an overdose epidemic. You’ve heard the President talk about that. More than 100,000 lives lost in the — in the most recent 12-month period.
The bulk of our early efforts have been focused on addressing the addiction and overdose epidemic. That’s what we have talked about these past 19 months, which has worsened during the course of the pandemic, sadly.
Untreated addiction and overdose deaths require urgent attention and having evidence-based policies in place — in place is critical. That is incredibly important to this President. But at the same time, President Biden believes that there are too many people serving unduly long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes — a disproportionate number of whom are Black and brown. That’s why, in April, during the Second Chance month, President Biden announced 17 sentences, commutations, and three pardons, which are more grants of clemency at this point in a presidency than any of his five recent predecessors.
As I’ve said before, the President supports leaving decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states; rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts; and, at the federal level, he supports decriminalizing marijuana use and automatically expunging any prior criminal records.
I don’t — we don’t have anything to announce today at this point, but I just wanted to lay that for you.
Q On the Federal Reserve, Elizabeth Warren has said that she’s concerned that if the Fed raises rates again that it could put people out of work or tip the economy into a recession. Does the President share any of those concerns about an overreach or a possible overreach?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, we’ve been very clear when it comes to the President’s plan on attacking inflation. He has said many times that he gives the Federal Reserve their independence to — to make the monetary decision on how to deal with inflation. That is something that, again, we give their independence. We believe they have the strongest tools to deal — to deal with that.
But we know that Americans are feeling the pain of higher costs, higher prices. That’s why we have worked so hard to bring down gas prices. We’ve seen, for 76 days, gas prices have gone down. It is the fastest decline, as you’ve heard us say, in over a decade. And so that is important. That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act was so critical in dealing with — that’s going to deal with lowering costs, that’s going to deal with that $300 billion. It’s going to deal with reducing the deficit, which is important, which is now — that $1.7 trillion deficit that we have seen under this President in the past 19 months; $380 billion was done last year. And so, this is important as well.
It’s important for the President, but he’s going to continue to do the work. But we want to say — a couple of things that we wanted to share is, like, you saw the new data on Friday that showed prices came down nationwide last month and personal income went up. So that is a sign of inflation that is easing. And latest CP- — the latest headline, CPI inflation was flat. Prices in the aggregate had no increase versus the prior month.
And this morning, we lear- — and yesterday morning — pardon me, sorry — Friday morning, we learned that consumer sentiment is up 13 percent since July and one-year inflation expectation dropped nearly half a percent from — from the month — from the month before.
We have more work to do. We understand that. We know that there are families who are — and Americans who are still feeling the pain. And we’re going to continue to do the work to do —
Q So the White House doesn’t disagree with Senator Warren?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I’m just — we’re just saying that this is something that the Federal Reserve is going to — we don’t want to step on, you know, what the Federal Reserve is going to do.
Our goal is to — to keep bringing down inflation without sacrificing the historic and lifechanging economic gains that we’ve seen this country has made over the last 18 months.
And, you know, as Powell said — as Powell also said, the economy continues to show strong, underlying momentum. We have regained all of the jobs lost during the pandemic. And if you look at the labor market, it — you know, consumers are spending; as I said, what businesses are investing; and what American industry is producing, you continue to see the resiliency in our — in our economy and that’s what matters.
Q Thanks, Karine. Can you — can you talk a little bit about the free COVID test program going away? What does that mean for the COVID testing industry? And does it mean that rapid tests will be harder to come by if there’s a fall surge?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on Friday, the administration announced that it will suspend taking orders for free tests through COVIDTests.gov because Congress hasn’t provided the COVID funding we need to replenish the nation’s stockpiles of tests. As simple as that.
The last day to place new orders will be Friday, September — this is September 2nd. And — but just to give you a little bit of what we have done and what we’ve had to do, we’ve already distributed over 600 million tests through this program, and every household has had the opportunity to place three orders for a total of 16 tests.
Americans will continue to have other options for free testing, including free at-home tests through private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and 1,500 community-based free testing sites. So that is available to Americans.
So, look, the administration has been very clear about our urgent COVID-19 response funding needs for months. We’ve been talking about it for months. The COVID Response Team has been talking about it for months. We’ve warned that the congressional inaction would face unacceptable tra- — trade-offs and harm our preparedness and response, and that the consequences would likely worsen over time.
So this is an action we’ve been forced to take that will help preserve our limited remaining supply, ensuring we have a limited of tes- — supply of tests available in the fall. So that’s what we’re trying to be forward thinking, forward leaning here when we might face a new rise in infections and more acute need.
Q Has the administration given up on getting COVID funds in the CR? And on that realm, I mean, what does that mean for free COVID vaccines? I mean, is it no longer —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So are you talking about the booster that’s — that we’re about to announce?
Q Well, just —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Or that is first —
Q — providing for the costs.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So — so let me just be clear: These decisions about the vaccines, including when will be — who and when will be eligible are made by FDA and CDC. So I just want to make sure, based on their experts and their review, as we talk about vaccines.
So, you know, in the meantime, the administration has been working with state and local health departments and other partners to prepare operationally for all scenarios.
This includes working to ensure vaccines remain available in a range of trusted convenient loca- — locations, including local pharmacies and community health centers, and easy to access.
So, we’re planning for this. We’re planning for a robust plan and education program, and building on our lessons that we had for COVID-19.
And so, you know, while we’re preparing, we are doing so with the limited funding we have left. So, we have some funding for this. We’ve had to take money away from things like testing, as I just mentioned, to help fund the procurement of these vaccines. So, that’s one way, as I said, we had to be really mindful in why we’re doing the testing — made the testing announcement.
So, needs to help strengthen our vaccination program and reach more folks are limited. And so, the COVID team will share more on this in the following — when the decisions are made on how — from the CDC and FDA — how we’re going to move forward.
But yes, we had to make some tough decisions to make sure that we’re able to do this fall campaign once the CDC and FDA makes that decision.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thanks. I wanted to drill down on the degree to which there was White House involvement in the Trump documents story earlier this year.
Last week, we learned that the Archivist — the Acting Archivist of the United States approached the White House Counsel and a determination was reached here to allow the Acting Archivist to make a determination with respect to executive privilege.
Can you — what more can you tell us about that and why the determination was reached to defer that to the — to the Archivist?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the — the letter from the National Archivist and the search are completely different. We’ve been very clear about that. They’re not the same. And so just want to restate that.
The recently published letter from the Archives is not about the search and, in fact, underlines how closely the President has honored his pledge to restore the independence of the Department of Justice concerning investigations.
If you read the letter, you’ll see that — the way we were able to defer. It shows that DOJ made a request for access to an older set of documents independently and the White House affirmed it, which is standard. Nothing unusual there. And when former President Trump attempted to assert executive privilege to block the FBI from assessing the document, President Biden deferred to the National Archives and the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel on the issue.
So, again, we deferred that decision. So, this — the decisions here have been made by the National Archives and the Department of — Justice Department.
Q Just to clarify, you’re saying that President Biden himself was personally approached and he made the decision himself?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I’m saying is the White House was — they’re — we are the ones that were able to defer, which is we affirmed — which is normal, nothing unusual — we deferred to the — to the National Archives and the Department of Justice legal office. And we let them make the decision.
It was not made here. We deferred it so that they can make the decision.
Q But just to pin it down: What — are you saying that it was not the President himself who arrived at the decision or did the President himself make a decision?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I can tell you is the White House affirmed it. I can’t — I’ve been asked this question: “Who, specifically?” I can tell you the White House, here on this campus — the White House actually affirmed it and also deferred it.
Q Thanks, Karine. Continuing on this theme — the President last week was asked about former President Trump’s claims that he declassified all these documents. And President Biden said, quote, “I’m not going to comment. I mean, because I don’t know the detail. I don’t even want to know. I’ll let the Justice Department take care of that.”
I understand that he wasn’t given advance notice about the search, the Justice Department is independent. But when it comes to national security questions, shouldn’t the President want to know the details?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, when it comes to national security questions and even classified materials, it is something that we just don’t speak to. We don’t get into information included in the President’s classified materials or daily briefings on sesinive [sic] — on sensitive national security or intelligence matter. Right? That is something that I wouldn’t even be able to talk about because that is the protocol that we have here.
Look, the President was asked a question. He answered it in — in — as — as it relates to — right? — this is also relating to — we’ve said this — any content, anything that’s related to underlying materials related to this. This is something that we are just not informed on.
This is something that it is the independence of the Department of Justice as it relates to ODNI. That is something that — that assessment that they are doing that we are not involved, we are not briefed, we are not aware of. And I’ll leave it at that.
Q I just want to be really clear: You can say that he was not briefed about the warrant execution, but you can’t say whether he’s been briefed on any —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, no —
Q — national security issues?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I — I can tell you right now, when it comes to the ODNI, the letter, I can surely tell you that the President was not briefed on that, he was not aware —
Q I’m not asking about just about the letter —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know — I — but this is all — it’s all connected, right? Right? It’s all connected. So I’m trying to give you answers for what I can give you answers to, right?
So I’m sure — we have not been asked about that. And I’m telling you, for that particular piece, we were not briefed, we were not made aware of. That is something that ODNI — that is their assessment. That is something that they’re doing as it relates to the ongoing investigation that the Department of Justice is doing as it’s connected to national security materials.
What I can say, if asked — if I’m asked if the President has been briefed on classified materials — we have said this before at the podium — it is — it is something that I can’t even speak to, right? I can’t even speak to what classified materials he’s been briefed or daily briefings when it even comes to his PDA [sic] — PDB.
That is — it is — it is classified information. So it is not even something that we can speak to. That’s what I’m — I’m spea- — I’m talking about.
Q So, Karine, you’re saying he hasn’t been briefed so far, but are you implying that he won’t be briefed as long as the DNI assessment is taking place?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All — I can’t even get into hypotheticals right now. I can speak to this moment. I can speak to what is currently happening right now, which is — which is we’re just not going to comment on an ongoing investigation. Right? This is an ongoing investigation — an independent investigation.
We’re just not going to comment. And we have not been briefed on that. I cannot get into hypotheticals. I don’t know — we don’t know what’s going to happen next. So I not going to go into a hypothetical question of what is going to happen —
Q Broadly —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — in the future.
Q Broadly, though, the White House supports this damage assessment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, this is — again, I’m just — I am just not going to comment on that.
Q Was there anybody in the White House who requested this assessment ahead of time before —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q Okay. And then Senator Lindsey Graham said, last night, “there would be riots in the streets” if former President Trump is prosecuted for taking classified government documents to Mar-a-Lago. What is the White House response to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we have — you know, we have seen MAGA Republicans attack our democracy. We have seen MAGA Republicans take away our rights, make threats of violence, including this weekend, and that is what the President was referring to when you all asked me last week about the semi-fascism comment.
And he was clear: not all Republicans — there are some mainstream Republicans — he mentioned the Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan and talked about — about him and what he’s been doing and how he said — called them out of being that mainstream Republican.
But we have seen these MAGA, extreme Republicans making these kinds of comments, which is — which is dangerous. And — and this is what we are talking about when Joe Biden — when Joe Biden was making his comments — President Biden was making his comments last week.
Look, this is a President that believes when you are President of the United States, it is your duty, it is your responsibility to have the strongest voice of — when it comes to democracy, when speaking about democracy. And that’s what you’re going to continue to hear from this President.
Q Thank you, Karine. Just to follow up on the Pennsylvania trip: You mentioned the assault weapons ban as being kind of a key priority for the administration. But are you kind of out of things that you can do from an executive standpoint? I know months ago you were reviewing what other additional executive actions you could take on gun violence. Are you — are you out of options there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I — we don’t have — I don’t have anything else to share on what else we can do. But I can say this: This is a president who has taken the most action — most executive action than any other President when it comes to curtailing and really dealing with gun violence. And that’s how seriously he’s taken this.
I just laid out what he did in the American Rescue Plan — that $350 billion that helped — that went into communities to make sure that communities were safer. That’s — only Democrats in Congress voted for the American Rescue Plan. That matters.
He’s going to go tomorrow and talk about what else we are doing as an administration to make sure that — that we’re — that we’re — that communities feel safer.
And — but as far as what we’re doing from the — as far as executive actions, certainly don’t have anything to share to you — for you at this time.
But he has called — he’s called on Congress to take actions on — on assault weapons ban, something that we haven’t seen in 30 years.
And you’ve heard him say this: When — when assault weapons ban sunset 10 years after it was put into law — 10 years after he worked very hard to make sure that we had that piece of legislation — we did see crime go up with assault weapons ban — assault weapons.
So that is something that the President has been fighting for throughout his Senate days, as Vice President. And he’ll continue to fight for this as President.
Q And did you have any more color about why this part of Pennsylvania is the appropriate place for this message?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, no — no specific color on that. You know, we’re going to his hometown, which is important to him, which is very close to him. But I don’t have any specifics. It’s just — you know, we go to — we go to places where we can actually be able to deliver our message to the American people, especially all the work that we have — we have done here in Washington with congressional Democrats.
Q One quick one on abortion. There’s been kind of a number of incidents nationwide where medical providers have been unsure if they can provide certain procedures for women, even if they feel that it’s medically necessary, if they’re going to run afoul of state law. What is kind of the White House guidance to medical providers about whether they should consider running afoul of state laws in providing medically necessary abortions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, this is something that we are acutely aware of, that certainly that we are a monitoring. Look, a lot of this is — you know, when we talk about that MAGA agenda, the MAGA extreme Republicans, this is it. This is congressional Republicans who are touting this MAGA agenda, including banning abortion in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. And so this is something that the President certainly is going to call out.
We saw the Texas district court affirm that medical providers can deny lifesaving and health-preserving care for women, even if they are suffering from hemorrhaging or life-threatening hypertension. Thankfully, we saw in Idaho — a federal Idaho district court determine that women there will continue to receive lifesaving and health-preserving emergency care, including abortion care.
But, you know, this is — this is something that the President is going to continue to speak to: how extreme this agenda is. The Department of Justice is looking into it and answering your question. Again, this is — you know, we refer folks to them. They’re going to do what they can to protect — to protect women as they’re crossing over into states and — and make sure that, you know, we can do everything that we can so that women can make their decision — their own decisions — on what they can do to protect their health and to protect their life.
Q I guess I’m asking: Should providers risk it? Like if if — if it’s a close call on whether it’s legal or not in the state —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, it’s not — it’s not for me to decide. Right? We’re going to do everything that we can to provide any assistance that we can so that women can get the care that they need. Clearly, that’s a decision that they have to make. The Department of Justice is doing that every — everything that they can as well in states, working with states. We have HHS working with states on how to provide care for — to women. You’ve heard us talk about the waivers. You’ve heard us talk about the executive actions that the President has taken.
But again, that is — that is not something that I’m going to speak directly to. That is something that they would have to make a decision on. And every state is different, right? Every — every law is different.
Q Thanks, Karine. One thing that the White House has said about the ODNI’s review is that the White House sees this as appropriate action. I wonder whether you could help us understand why the White House sees this as appropriate — appropriate action, whether that’s based on any specific concerns that have been discussed within the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m just not going to get into any anything further there. I — again, we have seen the letter from ODNI to Congress on this. I would refer you to either ODNI or the Department of Justice for any specific questions, any underlying materials. We’re just not going to speak to this. This is an assessment that ODNI is doing. And we — we did not know anything about this beforehand. And I’m just not going to go any further.
Q Last week, when we were having discussions about the student loan forgiveness program, the White House made clear that you all see this program as basically paid for because of the deficit reductions achieved during the President’s term.
I wonder if the President is open to pursuing any other programs, any other actions that could be offset by deficit reductions if it means that he can pursue his agenda further.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to announce on this. The President does believe — and you heard him say this directly, not just here at the podium — that the amount of deficit reduction we’ve seen is enough to pay for this program. This is what Bharat — you — I think you were here when Bharat was our guest just on Friday. That’s one of the many reasons this action was — is well justified in our eyes.
And remember, you know, we’re on track to cut, as you were alluding to, the deficit down by $1.7 trillion by the end of this year, and — and including the Inflation Reduction Act will reduce the deficit by another trillion over the next decade.
So, the plan the President announced provides important breathing room — a little bit of that breathing room that he talks about — for middle-class Americans in particular. And it goes after — it goes towards helping targeted Americans who are — 90 percent who are making less than $75,000 a year. It is incredibly important, we believe, the student lan [sic] — the student loan plan is, the cancellation plan. And he — something that we are very proud of. And that’s also historic.
Q I just had one last quick one. Is there an official estimate of additional funding that the administration would want to deal with monkeypox? And will there be an official request made to Congress at some point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I could say this — I just want to make sure, because we had some good updates on this on the monkeypox. I know that folks were really curious about what we were doing or concerns, rightfully so.
As you know, we’ve been working day in and day out on — across the government and with cities and states and healthcare providers, public health officials, and the impacted community to execute a strategy to accelerate the fight against the monkeypox outbreak. We’re making a lot more doses available and working closely with jurisdictions to operationalize all of this.
Last week, HHS made 360,000 additional vials of vaccines for jurisdictions to order. That is on top of approximately 780,000 vials that we already delivered that we have talked about here. Seventy-five percent of jurisdictions have moved to this method, and another twenty percent working to do the same.
This is a significant progress in a short term of time and will mean more shots in arms. This is a cumulative of 1.1 million vials are delivered to jurisdictions. And as we get more supplies, we are approaching the point where we can offer two doses of vaccine to the entire high-risk population via intradermal administration.
So, again, this is something that — wanted to just lay that out, because we have seen some movement, and we’re trying to meet that moment, as we have talked about. And that funding that you’re talking about that is connected to the COVID and the CR, that’s something that we’re going to continue to work with Congress on to make sure that we have the funding needed to do the work on monkeypox and also to — the continued work with COVID.
Q Do you have an estimate on the funding amount?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have — I don’t have an estimate for you at this time, but just know that we’re going to continue to work on — with Congress.
Q Yeah, thank you. Revisiting the marijuana question, specifically what John Fetterman is calling on President Biden to do is use executive authority to de-schedule marijuana as a Schedule I drug. Several other Democratic senators have called on the same — called for the same. Is President Biden looking at that specific action? And why hasn’t he taken that action so far if that’s something he has considered?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, we don’t have anything new to share on — or any announcement to share. I laid out the President — our drug policy. Wanted to just give a little in-depth of what we have done in the last 19 months and what is important to the President. This is something that he has talked about — right? — during the campaign. And you’ve heard from him many other times talking about the — our — his drug policy — drug policy focus and what’s important to him. We just don’t have anything to speak to.
As I mentioned in April during the Second Chance Month, President Biden announced 75 sentence commutations and 3 pardons, which are more grants of clemency at this point than any other President, than any of his five recent predecessors. He’s going to continue to evaluate further uses of his clemency powers.
And as it relates to marijuana decriminalization, just don’t have anything at this time.
Q Does the White House believe he has the authority to do that executive action?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, again, I’m just not going to get into the specifics. Look, the administration has made progress on its promises regarding marijuana. An example is the DEA issued its first license — licenses to companies to cultivate marijuana for research purposes after years of delay during the previous administration. This is a key step in promoting research because it broadens the amount and quality of cannabis available for research purposes. And we will continue to explore — explore what else we can do.
As far as reforms, we just don’t have anything to share for you today.
Q And one last question. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania, will not be at the event tomorrow with the President. Has he — has their campaign given you a reason? Is the President disappointed that he won’t be there for that event?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I can’t speak to — to the lieutenant governor. My understanding is he had an existing event. So I would refer you to his — to his office or his campaign.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Getting back to the FDA authorization of the new COVID booster vaccine, your answer to Franco. When you said that you’re planning for a robust education program and plan, but you said you’re doing it with “the limited funding we have left.”
So, just to clarify, when you’re trying to combat some of the hesitancy questions right now — you know, right now only half of Americans eligible for a booster have gotten one. Is the White House — as you prepare for public messaging ahead of this new shot, are you doing a more scaled-down version compared to previous rounds because you have limited funding to do that? Is this different than what we’ve seen in previous booster public messaging campaigns?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So it’s going to be a robust education program that — we’re going to continue to do that. And we’re going to build on the lessons we’ve learned and focusing on the most at-risk communities. This will include leveraging deep partnerships across sectors to meet people where they are with facts and answers to questions, and empowering trusted local messegers [sic] — messengers with messaging they need to engage with their communities about the importance of vaccination.
So this is what we’ve learned — because we have learned from some lessons from the COVID-19 outreach, our comprehensive program that we had from the beginning of this administration. So we’re going to use those lessons and — and do that and do the — the things that we’ve learned that worked for the fall booster campaign.
And, again, we’re going to be — targeted at-risk — at — do a more at-risk campaign. It will be robust. We’re going to make sure that we have those trusted local messengers, which, by the way — I think you remember; you covered this so closely last year — it worked. It worked. When you have those trusted voices, that — that does help make sure that people go get vaccinated and, in this case, get their booster.
Q And are there any concerns about supply with this new booster? And will everyone who wants to be able to get one be able to get one for free?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re — I’m not going to get ahead of the FDA and CDC. They’re going to lay out who is going to — who is going to be able to receive — or how the process is going to go. And they’re going to lay that out, so I don’t want to get ahead of them.
But look, I mean, we’ve — that’s why we’re — we’re kind of — we made the announcement on testing, right? That’s why we’ve had to, you know, actually end some things and — and cut some — cut away, take some money away from things like testing to help — to help fund the procurement of these vaccines. And so this is a priority. We’re going to do the best that we can to get vaccines to folks — folks who are most at risk, as I just mentioned.
But, you know, we’re going to continue to do the work that’s needed to make sure we protect the American public.
Q Thank you, Karine. This weekend, we saw U.S. warships going through the Taiwan Strait. Considering the buildup of tension since the Speaker’s visit, what was the necessity of seeing U.S. warships during this time?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, INDOPACOM put out a statement, as you probably saw, on Sund- — on Saturday, detailing the transit — the warships that you’re speaking of — the Navy — the U.S. Navy warships, to be more specific.
We conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on August 28th in accordance with international law and demonstrated our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, as you’ve heard us say many times before from this podium and from the President.
As we have said, you will see in the coming days and weeks and months that our presence, posture, and exercises account for China’s provocative and destabilizing behavior with a view towards guiding the situation in Western Pacific towards greater stability.
This is not about U.S.-China. This is about what is in the interest — the best interests of — Taiwan’s interests, specifically, and the region’s interest as well.
So, our policy towards Taiwan has remained consistent for decades and across administrations. We remain committed to the — our One China policy. And in accordance with that policy, we’ll continue to fly and sail and operate where international law allows, consistent with our longstanding commitment to freedom of navigation, as you’ve heard us say. And that includes conducting standard air, maritime transit through the Taiwan Strait. So, we’re committed to doing that and protecting the region.
Q Hey, Karine —
Q And another topic on —
Q Karine —
WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Karine, we got to — to go.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I got to go?
Q Sorry, another topic on — on the Iran — potential new Iran deal. Iran is studying the U.S. response, but we are — we’re receiving information here and there about a potential release of prisoners and all this. I know you don’t want to negotiate in public —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — but does the administration feel that the discussions are going in the right direction?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So as far as the status of negotiations, as I said — as you have said, we’re not going to negotiate in public.
Look, we have taken a deliberate and principled approach to these negotiations from the start. If Iran is prepared to comply with its commitments under the 2015 deal, then we’re prepared to do the same.
As it relates to last week and the EU, we conveyed our feedback about Iran’s comments on the EU’s proposal directly to the EU. We will not negotiate, again, in public, and are going to — not going to go into details of how the process is going.
I’m going to — go ahead — do —
Q Karine, I know Abdullah is trying to give you the hook.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I know.
Q Can you get a few more questions here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. I’m going to take them.
Q I — thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s why — I could have walked away and not taken your question, Peter. But I will take your question.
Q I’ll make it worth it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sure. I’m sure you will.
Q Different topic.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q How come migrants are allowed to come into this country unvaccinated but world-class tennis players are not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you — you’re talking about which world-class tennis player?
Q Novak Djokovic.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So as far — you know, just to — just since you asked about me — about him — you asked me about him. So, visa records are confidential under U.S. law. Therefore, the U.S. government cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases. Due to privacy reasons, the U.S. government also does not comment on medical information of individual travelers.
As it relates to the tennis — the tennis pla- — player, look, those questions regarding vaccination requirements is — is — I defer you to CDC. This is a CDC requirement for foreign nationals. This is something that they decide. This is — so, this is something that is up to them — the U.S. Open and their participant protocols. I’d refer you to them; they have their own specific protocols as well.
Q But just —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So they’re two different things. They’re two —
Q As — but —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — different things.
Q But — so, how is it two different things? Somebody unvaccinated comes over on a plane; you say that’s not okay. Somebody walks into Texas or Arizona unvaccinated; they’re allowed to stay. Why?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That — but that’s not how it works.
Q That’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Like, we actually —
Q That’s what’s happening.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q I know that that’s not what you guys want to happen, but that is what happ— what is happening.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But that’s not — it’s not like somebody walks over and — (laughs) — that’s not — that’s not how —
Q That’s exactly what’s happening.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We — look —
Q Thousands of people are walking in a day. Some of them turn themselves over. Some of them are caught; tens of thousands a week are not. That is what is happening.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just lay out what we have done under this administration:
We have installed new border technology and set up joint protocols with Mexico and Guatemala to catch more human traffickers.
We have already made over 3,000 arrests in the first three months of launching an unprecedented anti-smuggling campaign with regional partners.
We’ve secured record levels of funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
We’ve put in place dedicated immigration judges so asylum seekers can have their cases heard faster.
We’ve expanded la- — labor pathways, including H-2B visas.
And through the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, President Biden brought 20 leaders — world leaders together to manage increased migration flows across the Western Hemisphere.
By contrast, core to the prior administration, immigration strategy was to build a wall and they couldn’t even come accomplish that in the four years. And they also, by talking about building a wall — which would have taken billions of dollars from veterans, billion dollars from schools — which is also a policy that just does not work. It is not that simple. It’s not just that people are walking across — across the border.
We have a — we have a plan in place. This is not like switching the lights on. Right? This is going to take a process. We are fixing a broken system that was actually left by the last administration.
And as it relates to the tennis star, that is totally different. That is a different process. That is the U.S. Open that he is part of, and there are a CDC — federal guidance —
Q But —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — that he isn’t — he needs to follow.
Q But why is there a CDC requirement for people that fly here, as opposed to people that cross the southern border?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we have talked about Title — we have talked about Title 42. Right?
Q This is not — this has nothing to do with Title 42.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is.
Q This is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Title 42 is the CDC imperative that is —
Q And you guys got rid of it because you said the pandemic is not —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s not —
Q — a big deal anymore.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is — that is not how it works. It is not — every — Title 42 is very much in place, and that is the process. So there is a CDC — there is a CDC provision for folks coming through — coming through the southern border. It is not just — it is not just for tennis players. Migrants have, also, a CDC guidance that we have to follow, which is Title 42. So that is not the case. That is factually wrong.
Okay. Go to the back. Right here.
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. So the jobs numbers are coming out on Friday. So should Americans be prepared for job losses to tame inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t want to get ahead of what we’re going to see in a couple of days. We have talked about how we’re coming off a historic economic growth. And it’s no surprise that the economy is slowing down.
You’ve heard me say this, you’ve heard Brian Deese say this, you’ve heard others from NEC sl- — say this: slowing down as — as we’re going into a transition — right? — again, from a historic — from a historic economy to now a more stable and steady growth. And that is important.
We see that as an important — as an important next step. And so — and we’ve talked about how we’re — as the — as we see the job growth numbers, we’re expecting that to cool off just — just a bit as we’re going into that transition, making sure we do not lose the gains that we have seen this past year.
And right now, we’re still seeing a strong labor market, which matters. Consumer spending is strong, which matters. And — and so, we’re going to always look at every economic data. That’s going to be very important as we move forward and continue to try and deliver lower costs in particular, which is so important at this time for the American people.
But I’m not going to get ahead of the numbers. But we have talked about how we’re expecting to see a bit of a cooling as we go into a transition to more stable growth.
Q So, in that transition then, you’re expecting job losses by the end of the year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going — we’ve talked about how we anticipate a cooling — right? — for the job numbers to — to not be at the — at the high job growth that we have seen these past several months.
That is something that we have talked about many times. Any time you all ask me about what we expect for jobs numbers, we always talk about “we expect a cooling,” especially as we’re in a transition for a stable and steady growth. And that is something that is important as we’re looking at the resiliency of our economy.
Okay. I’m trying to see — go ahead.
Q Thanks. I wanted to go back to what you were saying about the COVID-19 rapid tests. Is it that you need more money to buy more tests or you’re out of money to send the tests? What’s the funding issue exactly that prompted you to shut this down for now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’ve been very clear that the COVID-19 response funding needs — needs for months, right? We’ve talked about it. You’ve heard us talk about it in here. You’ve heard the COVID Response Team talk about it. You’ve heard the President talk about it. We’ve warned that the congressional inaction would force unacceptable trade-offs and harm our preparedness and response, and that consequences would be likely worsened over time. And that is what you’re seeing here.
So this is an action we’ve been forced to take because of the lack of funding and not continuing getting that funding that we need from Congress that will help preserve our limited remaining supply. That’s what we’re seeing.
So, ensuring we have limited supply of tests available in the fall — right? We are — we are preparing — that’s what we’re doing in this administration. We make sure that we prepare for what can come next. And so — you know, what we might face: a new rise in infections and more acute need. So that’s why we’re taking this action so we have some limited supply for down the road.
But again, we’re going to continue to call on Congress for the funding. We’re going to continue to work with Congress to get that extra funding. But that’s what you’re hearing from this announcement. Yes, we had to make some tough decisions, and this is part of that.
Q The other question I wanted to ask you is on Afghanistan, specifically the Afghans that have come into the country in the last year and don’t have a path to permanent legal status, or at least not an easy one.
I wanted to ask: The White House made a push to get Congress to create such a path earlier this year, and then it kind of cooled down. With Congress coming back next week and a lot of these Afghans heading toward a lot of uncertainty, will the White House make a fresh push on Congress to get this done?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, this is an issue that’s important to this President, important to the administration. I’m going to check in with our Office of Leg Affairs and the team here to see what the plan is for the next steps. We don’t have anything to share specifically on the legislative component to that.
Q Okay. Is there anything else that you can do from an administration perspective to help these people be able to apply for asylum more quickly or be able to have that certainty that they know they’ll be able to stay here long term?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we all know that legislation is always the best way to move forward with more certainty when it comes to, you know, asylum or coming here and getting the — getting the security that they need.
But, look, one of the things that I do want to say is that, you know, this — the Biden administration — the Biden-Harris administration is going to continue to demonstrate its commitment to the brave Afghans who stood side by side with the United States over the past two decades. And so that is a commitment that we have made.
And just to give you a little bit of an update on the SIV process, because we had made some changes to that since taking office: The President’s — at the President’s direction, we have undertaken substantial efforts to improve the Afghan Special Immigration Visa — SIV program — make it more efficient and process SIV applicants more expeditiously while continuing to safeguard our national security.
Quickly after taking office, President Biden signed an executive order, as you all know, in February of 2021, requiring agencies to surge resources, streamline the proc- — the application process.
We’ve restarted SIV interviews — which had been paused by the previous administration, allowing a massive backlog of applications to build — and have surged resources to this vital program, increasing the number of staff processing SIV applications more — by more than fifteenfold.
So, this is something that I wanted to just make sure that you had.
And another update is: As of August 9th, over 17,000 individuals have submitted all documents required to apply for Chief of Mission review, or have beyond the Chief of Mission stage. We’re working to process those cases as quickly as possible. The Afghan SIV program remains active and the Department of State continues to receive the process — to process new SIV applications as expeditiously as possible.
So anything specific or anything more about that, I certainly would refer you to Department of State.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Okay. Thank you, guys.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. All right. Thank you.
4:15 P.M. EDT