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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:10 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wow, that was a flash.  (Laughs.)  My goodness.  Is that a Polaroid?

Q    It is.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Whoa.  Taking us back. 

Okay.  I think — is the mic okay?

Q    Yeah, it sounds good. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah?  Okay. 

All right, everybody.  Happy Monday and good afternoon to everyone.  Hope everyone got some rest after last night’s Super Bowl. 

The President was able to catch some of the game.  And on his behalf, I want to extend a big congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on their third Super Bowl win in just five seasons.  And also congratulations to all the Swifties out there. 

The President looks forward to welcoming them back once again to the White House to celebrate their latest victory.  As you know, it is a White House tradition. 

And so, without ado, don’t have anything much more — I know — I know you guys are excited about that.  We have our — the Admiral here — my colleague, John Kirby — who is here to discuss the visit of King Abdullah of Jordan and the latest on the Israeli hostages who were freed in Rafah and also the Lobito Corridor Private Sector Investment Forum.

Admiral.

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you so much, Karine.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY:  As you know, the President is hosting King Abdullah here at the White House this afternoon.  It’s the 75th year of diplomatic relations between Jordan and the United States, and this meeting will help further strengthen our enduring bilateral relationship. 

During the meeting, President Biden and the King will discuss the ongoing situation in Gaza, of course, and efforts to help produce an enduring end to this conflict. 

They’ll also discuss increasing humanitarian assistance into Gaza and a vision for durable peace, to include the viability of a two-state solution with Israel’s security guaranteed.

Now, before we get into questions, I just want to express how pleased we are to hear the news of two Israeli hostages freed last night by Israeli Defense Forces in Rafah.  After 128 days, Fernando Simon Marian and Louis Har are now reunited with their families where they belong. 

That’s where all the hostages belong, quite frankly.  And so, President Biden and his entire team is going to continue to work around the clock to ensure and to secure their release.  We will spare no effort to do so, and that includes capitalizing on recent progress in negotiations with our counterparts in the region.  And those negotiations are ongoing.

Now, we’ve also seen reports that civilians were killed over the weekend in Rafah due to Israeli operations.  I can’t confirm those reports, but as we have said many times, the proper number of civilian casualties is zero.  We don’t want to see a single innocent civilian death — Israeli or Palestinian.

But let me be clear: There can be no enduring end to this crisis until Hamas releases the men and women that they are holding hostage — all of them.  Their release and a prolonged humanitarian pause is also essential for bringing critical relief to in- — the innocent people of Gaza who have absolutely nothing to do with the underlying conflict.  And this remains our paramount objective. 

Now, as Karine teased, just a real quick note on Africa.  Last Thursday, the United States, the government of Zam- — Zambia, and the Africa Finance Corporation convened the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment Lobito Corridor Private Sector Investor Forum — try to say that 10 times — in Lusaka, Zambia. 

This was the first PGI investor forum held outside of the United States, bringing together more than 250 business and government leaders.

With over a billion dollars in U.S. and G7 financing, the corridor will ultimately connect Africans from western Angola to Tanzania and the Indian Ocean through rural bridges, upgraded 4G and 5G digital connec- — connectivity, increases in solar power, investing in agribusiness and food security, and the biggest rail investment in Africa in U.S. history.  

So, very exciting.  We’re — we’re very, very pleased to be able to move this forward — this — this development project.  And — and it’s exciting, and we’ll keep you posted.

With that, let me take some questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Zeke.

Q    Thanks, John.  First off, congratulations are in order, I believe.

MR. KIRBY:  Thanks.

Q    The President yesterday, in his conversation with Pr- — Prime Minister Netanyahu, reiterated the U.S. opposition to operation — expanded operations inside Rafah to — to root out Hamas’s remaining battalions there.

In your outline a few min- — a few seconds ago about what the end stage — Hamas’s release that’s — the remaining hostages to end the conflict.  Does the U.S. believe that Hamas can remain in Rafah?  Is that an acceptable end game of — you know, how are the Israelis — if they can’t go into Rafah to remove Hamas, how are they supposed to get rid of Hamas from Gaza, which the U.S. has said is their end goal here?

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, we never said that they can’t go into Rafah to remove Hamas.  Hamas remains a viable threat to the Israeli people.  And the Israelis and the IDF, absolutely, are going to continue operations against their leadership and their infrastructure, as they should.  We don’t want to see another October 7th. 

What we’ve said is we don’t believe that it’s advisable to go in in a major way in Rafah without a proper, executable, effective, and credible plan for the safety of the more than a million Palestinians that are taking refuge in Rafah.  They’ve — they’ve left the north, and they certainly went south out of Khan Yunis to try to get out of the fighting. 

So, Israel has an obligation to make sure that they can protect them. 

Q    And related to the ceasefire hostage deal talks, yesterday a senio- — senior administration official said that a framework was — was nearly reached but there were gaps remaining.  I was hoping you can provide some clarification on what the remaining gaps are and whe- — on which side of the conflict those gaps are. 

MR. KIRBY:  I — I’m sure you can understand I’m not going to get into the — the details of the negotiations. 

We do believe, as I’ve said before, that there has been constructive progress towards trying to get a deal in place for an extended pause and getting all the hostages out.  But it’s not done, and nothing is really negotiated until everything is negotiated. 

And those conversations are ongoing now.  And it would be really irresponsible for me to — to get into the details of it.

Q    And then, just lastly for me.  You — you had said the U.S. response to the killing of the three American servicemembers in — in Jordan would be pha- — phased over — over some time, a few days.  Is it safe to say that the — that the U.S. response at this point is concluded, or is it still ongoing?

MR. KIRBY:  You’re going to have to wait and see. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Thank you.  John, Secretary Austin is back in the hospital.  We wish him well, but he’s had to cancel a week — a trip this week to Europe and another gathering of the Ukraine Contact Group, which he could attend virtually if he wanted to.

First off, has the President spoken to Secretary Austin since he was hospitalized?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not aware of any conversation between the two of them since — since this just happened yesterday. 

Q    Does the President have any concerns that, with his medical problems, the Secretary can no longer serve?

MR. KIRBY:  Not at all. 

Q    There were conversations in here last week, I know, about the President saying that Israel’s moves into southern Gaza have been, quote, “over the top.”  And there were suggestions that that isn’t necessarily something new.

But that is a slightly more direct commentary on what they may or may not end up doing than we’ve heard from him in the past and we normally hear from world leaders talking about what other world leaders are up to. 

Is he changing his rhetoric on this, given the concerns expressed by members of his party, especially those in swing state Michigan?

MR. KIRBY:  The President has been pretty dang consistent, almost from the very beginning, Ed, about —

Q    He wasn’t saying it was “over the top” at the beginning.

MR. KIRBY:  But he’s been very consistent, Ed, about our concerns over civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure and the need for the Israeli Defense Forces to act with precision and deliberateness and due caution about taking innocent life.  I mean, that is not a new position by this administration, certainly not a new position by the President.

Q    Was that what he expressed yesterday in their call?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to get beyond the readout.  We — I think we — we offered you a pretty good summary of the things that they discussed. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Michael.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  John, over the weekend, satellite imagery emerged that indicates that Venezuelan military assets have been moved along their border with Guyana.  Do you have a comment?

MR. KIRBY:  We’ve — we’ve obviously been monitoring this closely, ourselves.  Our assessment is that whatever military movements there have been by Venezuela have been of a very — of a small nature and size and scale and scope.  We see no indication that there’s about to be hostilities or that the Venezuelan military would be capable of conducting any significant military activities there. 

We continue to urge a peaceful resolution to this.  And, obviously, we’re going to continue to watch it closely.  You know, I would remind that anything that we’re doing down in Guyana or in that area is done fure- — purely for defensive purposes. 

Q    And on — on Haiti.  The administration is convening a meeting, including the (inaudible) —

MR. KIRBY:  That’s right.

Q    — starting today.  I understand (inaudible).

MR. KIRBY:  Starting today and ending tomorrow, yeah.

Q    Okay.  What — what’s the goal of that meeting?  And when would you like to see this force deployed?

MR. KIRBY:  We think there’s a — certainly a significant need for a multinational security force of some kind down there to help protect the people of Haiti.  You’re right, there are discussions going on.  Started today, will go on again tomorrow over at Fort McNair here in town.  So, we’re — we’re glad to host them.  Look forward to seeing where we can get. 

But the idea, really, is to start to set out the general parameters of what that multinational security force could look like and how it would operate.  It’s a entry-level discussion.  I have no doubt there — there will be follow-on discussions as appropriate.

Q    John, the — on the Jordanian meeting today.  The Jordanians previewed the King’s visit here as an effort to gather support for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.  The President obviously is — has been a hard no on a ceasefire.  Is that going to be the position he presents to the Jordanian King today when they meet?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, let’s let the conversation happen before we get ahead of it.  We have been very consistent that we don’t support a general ceasefire at this time, which is, you know, again, a ceasefire that would lead to both sides laying down arms permanently and — and ending the war. 

Now, we want to see the war end as soon as possible.  And we believe one of the first steps that’s critical to doing that is a humanitarian pause — an extended pause that — longer than what we saw back in November of a week that would allow us to get all the hostages out, get more aid and assistance in, and then hopefully lead to discussions that — that could get us closer to an end to the conflict.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Oh — (laughter) — thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Admiral. 

So, President Biden had told Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu that any potential ground invasion in Rafah should not happen without a plan to protect civilians there.  Is the President confident that this message is getting through to Netanyahu?  And where are these civilians supposed to go?  So much of the infrastructure has already been destroyed in Gaza.

MR. KIRBY:  He’s confident that the — our Israeli counterparts understand our concerns.  We’ve made them privately.  We’ve made them publicly.

I won’t speak for the Israelis or — or what they may or may not do.  But they — but they’ve heard loud and clear our concerns about where the civilians — that the civilians need to be protected. 

I can’t tell you here, talking, Selina, what that would look like.  But — but we hope and expect that our Israeli counterparts will factor in the safety of those civilians appropriately as they consider future operations down in Rafah.

Q    So, what could that look like, given the situation there?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I can’t get ahead of where we are right now.  That’s really going to be a question for the Israeli Defense Forces.  They know and they understand our concerns.

Q    And Israel’s Prime Minister told ABC News, without presenting evidence, that Israel’s military has killed more Hamas fighters than civilians.  What is the U.S. assessment of that?  And do you agree with what Netanyahu told us?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t have an independent assessment of those figures.

Q    And, just lastly, the White — what is the White House reaction to Trump saying he would encourage Russia to attack NATO Allies if they don’t contribute enough towards defense spending?  What is the message that not only sends to the world but especially to U.S. Allies?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, now you know I’m going to be careful.  I can’t talk about things been said on the campaign trail.  All I can tell you is that under this particular president, President Biden, as Commander-in-Chief, NATO is now more relevant, stronger, bigger than it’s ever been before.  And he has really prioritized our network of alliances and partnerships around the world.  And, of course, NATO is right at the forefront of that when it comes to the security environment on the continent of Europe. 

And that’s what — that’s what the American president ought to be about — be about reinforcing alliances and partnerships and sending a strong signal, particularly to NATO Allies, about how seriously we take our Article Five commitments. 

And you’ve heard from President Biden, gosh, I don’t know how many times: We will defend, if needed, every inch of NATO territory. 

That’s what the Commander-in-Chief of the United States ought to be saying when it comes to NATO.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Trevor.

Q    And just to follow up on that quickly.  Vice President Harris is going to be in Munich with a lot of those European security leaders.  Is part of her duty there to reassure allies that that deterrence is still a force here?

MR. KIRBY:  I have no doubt that the Vice President will take the opportunity while she’s in Munich not only to talk about our — how this administration is pursuing our national security interests in Europe and beyond but how important, again, we consider our network of alliances and partnerships. 

And, Trevor, there’s no other nation in the world — none — that has a network like the United States has because the President and the Vice President and national security team has invested so much energy in the last three years in revitalizing them. 

A lot of allies and partners had a lot of questions when we came into office because they didn’t feel valued.  They didn’t feel respected.  They didn’t feel like the United States was — was willing to continue to lead on — on the world stage.  And we’ve proven that we are.

Q    And on Rafah.  Does the — has the President ever threatened to strip military assistance from Israel if they move ahead with a Rafah operation that does not take into consequence what happens with civilians?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re going to continue to support Israel.  They have a right to defend themselves against Hamas.  And we’re going to continue to make sure they have the tools and the capabilities to do that. 

Q    And what’s the view about the role that Egypt should play there?  Do they need to reopen their — do they need to open that border on their side in order to allow civilians to come through?

MR. KIRBY:  They — Egypt has been a terrific counterpart, with respect to Rafah and — and the use of that gate and allowing people that need to get out to get out — people that — you know, third- — third-country nationals.  And they continue to do that.  They’ve been a terrific partner.

Q    But it is closed — right? — so the average person can’t move through there, so —

MR. KIRBY:  There will be — there have been and I suspect there will be closures at times based on the security environment.  But — but we’re not concerned about our ability to continue to communicate with President El-Sisi about — about the proper use of that gate.

Q    But just to be clear, people are actually penned in right now — Gaza civilians — who are not able to egress — right? — into Egypt.

MR. KIRBY:  You’re talking about Palestinians?

Q    Palestinians who are not able to egress.  So, is that something that the President wants to see movement on?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t want to see any forced relocation of people out of Gaza.  That’s home for the Palestinian people. 

Q    What about voluntary?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, that’s something that we — we have and will continue to discuss with counterparts in the region.  But — but it’s home to those folks.  That’s — Gaza is home.  And they shouldn’t be forced to leave Gaza if they don’t want to leave. 

Now, if there’s going to be operations in Rafah or around Rafah, the Israelis have a commitment, an obligation to make sure that they can provide for the safety of innocent Palestinian — innocent Pal- — Palestinian people that are there.

Q    But you’re not pressuring Egypt to allow them to —

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to get into the specifics of diplomatic conversations that we’re having.  We w- — don’t want to see any Palestinian people forced out of Gaza.  That’s their home. 

If there are people that — that need to leave that are not Palestinians and want to leave, obviously, we’re working with Egypt to do that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, M.J.

Q    Thanks, Admiral.  Can you just talk to us about the feasibility of moving the entire civilian population out of Rafah?  Is that even physically doable?

MR. KIRBY:  There’s a lot of folks there, M.J. — more than a million.  Some estimates have it almost at 1.5 million.  That’s a lot of people that moved down to Rafah to get out of the fighting. 

And so, again, the — the task of providing for their safety at that number and in such confined spaces is — is difficult.  There’s no question about it.  That’s going to be a heavy lift.  For any military, it would be a heavy lift.  But — but that’s the conversation that we want to keep having with our Israeli counterparts.

That — that — I don’t know what it’s going to look like.  We can’t tell you what it’s going to look like.  That’s really for the IDF to speak to.  But it absolutely has to be accounted for.

Q    But do you think it’s a — it is a realistic goal, that it is viable to try to move those people out of that area?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, let’s see what the Israeli Defense Forces come up with. 

Q    And if they go ahead with the ground incursion anyway before the civilian population can safely be moved out of that area, would there be any consequences from the U.S.?  I know Trevor just asked a question about, you know, potentially stripping, you know, military support or security assistance.  What would the consequence be for Israel if they went ahead and did that anyway?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t want to get into hypotheticals on that.  We’ve — we’ve been very clear with our Israeli counterparts privately and publicly about what our expectations are for the treatment of the innocent people that are — that are down there near Rafah. 

And we’re going to continue to — as I mentioned to Trevor, we’re going to continue to support Israel.  They have a right and responsibility to go after Hamas.  We’re going to make sure that they can continue to do that.

But as from the very beginning, we want to make sure that they do that in a way that fully accounts for the preservation of innocent life and civilian infrastructure.

Q    And just since the President is about to meet with a close ally that publicly supports a ceasefire in Gaza, can you just talk to us about whether the President’s thinking on that has evolved at all?  You know, is he a little bit closer to potentially supporting that publicly than, say, a month ago?  Has his thinking on that evolved at all?

MR. KIRBY:  We haven’t changed in terms of our desire to see an extended pause so that we can get all the hostages home with their families where they belong, so we can get additional security assistance in, and we can see a reduction in the violence.  We are still focused on trying to get an extended humanitarian pause.

Q    I’m asking about a permanent pause.

MR. KIRBY:  I know what you’re asking.  We’re — what I’m saying is we support and continue to support an extended humanitarian pause. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, John.  I — you talk — I know you can’t give specifics about consequences.  But, I mean, would the United States’ policy change under any circumstances?  You know, you talk about an obligation to protect civilians.  The President has talked about “over the top,” indiscriminate bombings.  Is there anything — would there be any consequences?  Would the U.S. policy change?  Or is it support no matter what?

MR. KIRBY:  I just won’t get ahead of where we are right now.  And I’m certainly not going to engage hypotheticals.  We want to make sure Israel can continue to defend itself.  We want to make sure that humanitarian assistance continues to flow to the people of Gaza.  And by no means has there been enough.  There needs to be more.  And we want to get all those hostages home. 

We believe that the best way to accomplish those three goals is to get an extended pause in place to bring the violence down, to get people out, and get aid in.  And that’s what we’re focused on. 

And I — I get the — I get the thrust of the question.  I’m just not going to engage in hypotheticals about changes in policy.

Q    Is there anything beyond concern that you can give to the Israelis to — to help protect the civilians?

MR. KIRBY:  We have communicated, again, consistently and stridently since the beginning of the conflict — I mean, since the time the President went to Tel Aviv on the 17th of October, just a week or so after the attacks — how important it is that Israel knows it’s going to have our support and that they do everything they can to protect innocent life.

Q    Anoth- — another question, if I may.  What — what does — what — why did the President allow his campaign — the President allow his campaign to go on TikTok despite the national security review of the platform?

MR. KIRBY:  I’d have to refer you to the campaign for that.

Q    But, I mean, it’s still the President of the United States.  He’s still sending — the President is sending a message to Americans about the nat- — about the safety of TikTok by doing this.

MR. KIRBY:  I’d have to refer you to the campaign on that decision.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Danny.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Admiral.  I’m sorry to press you on this issue of — of Rafah.  But, I mean, you say there’s — you know, you’re not going to talk about possible halting military aid; you’re not going to talk about consequences.  What leverage does the White House actually have in terms of ensuring that Israel does not launch a military offensive in — in Rafah, you know, without taking the necessary steps?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I don’t think you’re all that sorry about pressing me on this, but I’ll — I’ll go ahead.  (Laughter.) 

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  It’s okay.  It’s all right.  (Laughs.)

Look, it’s not about leverage.  It’s about being consistent.  And I’ve said it before, just in the last few minutes.  It’s about being consistent about our desire to make sure Israel can defend itself so that October 7th can’t happen again, which Hamas obviously wants to do.  And it’s being consistent about the nee- — how they conduct those operations matter.  And we have been consistent since the very beginning in talking to the Israelis about — about the “how,” about operations and how they’re conducted.

And I would tell you that throughout this conflict, there have been moments and there continue to be moments where we have the opportunity and have taken the opportunity to shape their thinking and to help influence the way they have conducted some of these operations.  And that remains today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you.  Hi, John.  You referenced the release of two hostages.  But also, there is reports that in the process of this special operation, three hostages were killed, along with 100 Palestinians, including women and children.  Also, Egypt threatened to withdraw from the Camp David agreement if Israel invaded Rafah.  So, how does the White House navigate this rather complex picture?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I tried to address that in my opening statement, Nadia.  We don’t want to see any civilians killed, one — at any time — Israel — Israeli or Palestinian — in the conduct of operations.  The right number is — is zero. 

And so, while we’re very glad that two hostages are now back with their families where they belong, we certainly mourn any loss of innocent life as a result of those operations. 

And it just — it just underscores, I think, a couple of things.  One — and, again, we’re not — I can’t validate the numbers.  I’ve seen the reports, but I can’t confirm them.  But it does underscore two things: one, the difficulty of conducting military operations in such a closed-in urban environment where there are so many people — and as we talked about earlier, even more people now in the south in Rafah than there were before.  So, there — that’s an added difficulty for the IDF.

And, number two, it underscores the obligation that they have and that they know they have to be careful and discriminate and — and very deliberate in how they — in how they go after targets.

Last thing on this, though, and I think it’s an important point — and you didn’t ask this, but it’s an — we do know that Hamas leadership and — and fighters migrated south.  They got pressured in the north, so they went down to Khan Yunis.  Of course, they were already in Khan Yunis, but they kind of congregated there.  And then, as the Israelis put pressure on them in Khan Yunis, they gravitated further south now towards Rafah.

They — their — by their very presence and their operations down there, they are further endangering the people of — of Gaza that are now settled or trying to find refuge down there in Rafah. 

So, there’s — there is — there are legitimate military targets that the Israelis are going to want to go after in Rafah.  Again, we just urge them, as we have, to be careful. 

Q    And, also, I wanted to ask you — the President’s comments.  He referenced “over the top,” and he also said that Israel indiscriminately killing people in Gaza.  Yet, he’s willing to sign off on almost $14 billion in military aid. 

So, how can you reconcile the fact that he’s worried about civilian casualties without any serious review about how U.S. weapons are used in the civilian area?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I think you know we — just last week, late in the week, we issued a national security memorandum that — that codifies existing policies and adds reporting requirements onto those existing policies about our expectations for how military assistance is going to be provided to any foreign actor — and, of course, that includes Israel.

Q    Thank you.  Thanks, John.  Just to jump off of Nadia’s question, you’ve been explicit that the U.S. does not support an operation into Rafah without a credible, feasible plan to move and protect civilians. 

Yesterday’s operation — as you’ve also acknowledged, there were reports of civilian casualties.  But is — was the operation yesterday within the grounds of the kind of operation that the U.S. would support in Rafah?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I can’t really speak to the specifics of IDF operations.  You know I won’t do that.  They should speak to the operations that they conduct and — and what that looks like.

As I understand that — again, this is rudimentary and early information — this was a specific military raid to rescue hostages and not necessarily indicative of some larger operation that they have talked about conducting in Rafah to root out Hamas leaders that have now tried to find refuge among the million or so Palestinians that are there. 

Q    Yeah.  So, just in terms of, you know, what the U.S. would support, is it — is it a question of scale?  Is it a question of — of more targeted operations like this are okay, despite the possible civilian casualties, whereas a mass operation is not okay?  Like, just in terms of U.S. support.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, with the caveat that this is a sovereign nation we’re talking about and they get to decide what military operations they’re going to conduct, what we’ve said is: We wouldn’t support operations, given the current circumstances, where you have, again, more than a million people there with nowhere to go and no plan for some place for them to go so that they can be safe. 

So, we look forward to continuing talking to our Israeli counterparts about what that could look like. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Annie.

Q    Thanks so much.  John, on TikTok.  Can you explain what are the national security concerns that the administration has about TikTok?

MR. KIRBY:  As you know, it’s not approved for use on government devices, and that’s — remains the — the case today.  And I think — again, I don’t want to get into too much of the — of the national security, technical reasons behind that.  But it does have to do with concerns about the preservation of data and the potential misuse of that data and privacy information by foreign actors. 

I think that’s as far as I can go. 

Q    Does the White House believe it’s wise for people to use TikTok?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, that’s — that’s not something that I — I’m qualified to say from the National Security Council.  All I can tell you is it’s — it’s banned on U.S. government devices, and we follow that guidance. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    So, yesterday was the second anniversary with the Biden-Harris administration of the Indo-Pacific Strategy.  We have a statement from the NSC, but I’m just wondering how you see the progress so far.  Are you satisfied with the progress?

MR. KIRBY:  I think we’ve made a lot of progress.  I mean, we’ve initiated AUKUS and that process is moving along on schedule to get Australia nuclear-powered submarine capability.  We’ve elevated the Quad — the Indo-Pacific Quad.  We’ve upgraded our relationships with Vietnam, with Indonesia, and with ASEAN. 

And, of course, as you know, the President hosted the leaders of Japan and South Korea at Camp David and really got not only significant developments in terms of our bilateral relationship with each country, each ally, but improved opportunities to — to get trilateral cooperation in a much better place than it’s ever been. 

I can go on and on, including adding capabilities in and around the Korean Peninsula to — to keep a better eye on what Kim Jong Un is doing and, of course, bolstering all the rest of our alliances and netwo- — and par- — partnerships in the region. 

Q    Does the U.S. believe that all of the remaining hostages are being held in Rafah?  And if so, given that that would include Americans, are there requests by U.S. officials to the Israelis for any assurances for protection of those hostages?

MR. KIRBY:  We — we sadly don’t have a whole lot of specific information about where each of the hostages are, who’s holding them, and in what condition they might be.  And sadly, we have to accept the possibility that some of them are no longer alive.  We just don’t have terrific granularity on that.

We are in constant conversations with our Israeli counterparts about what they know. 

Certainly, we’re in — we remain in touch with the families of the American hostages.  I think Jake Sullivan just met with them a week or so ago.  We’ll — we’ll maintain constant touch with them and try to get as much information as we can. 

But obviously, the whole reason we’re trying to get this deal in place is so that you can provide for the safe and secure passage of hostages out.

Yes, it’s true and we’re glad that two hostages were rescued.  But the lo- — but the — by and — by and large, the greatest number of hostages safely released were done through a hostage deal — right? — a pause in the fighting where they were able to go. 

And that’s why we’re putting so much effort into these current negotiations.  We believe that’s the best way to get hostages in greater numbers out safely. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  We have to wrap it up.  Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you, John.  I have a question about Afghanistan, and then one about Lunar New Year.

Starting with Afghanistan.  The U.N. is holding its second International Conference on Afghanistan since the Taliban took power back.  That’s happening next week in Doha.  So, I just wonder what — what are the administration’s expectations from this gathering?  And do you see this as a move to normalize the Taliban?

MR. KIRBY:  There are no efforts by the United States government to, quote, unquote, “normalize,” as you put it, or to recognize the Taliban.

Officially, we’ve said — we’ve said it numerous times: If they want to be seen as legitimate rulers, they need to meet all the commitments that they said they would meet and make.  And they haven’t done that. 

Q    Do you think the U.N. should be holding this meeting, then?

MR. KIRBY:  I will let the Secretary-General speak for what the — what meetings the U.N. is holding.  Nothing has changed about our policy when it comes to the Taliban. 

Q    And then, very quickly, Happy Year of the Dragon.  It’s a happy year for you, a rabbit.  But — (laughter) — you are a rabbit.  You were born —

MR. KIRBY:  I’m a rabbit?

Q    — in 1963.  Yes, you are. 

Q    I have a follow-up.  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY:  About me being a rabbit?  (Laughter.)  All right.  Thank you.  I did not know that. 

Q    What is the —

MR. KIRBY:  But I appreciate that very much.

Q    What does the President — he’s a horse.  What is it — it’s supposed to be a prosperous year for him.  What is the President’s message for the 20 million Asian Americans who celebrated this — this holiday over the weekend?  He hasn’t issued a message.  What is his message?

MR. KIRBY:  We have, actually, I think, put something out on social media about the — the Lunar New Year.  And, of course, we’re wishing everybody who observes the Lunar New Year a happy one and a prosperous one, even the — even the rabbits.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead, Joe Joe.  Go ahead, Joe Joe.

Q    Yeah.  Thanks.  Admiral, I wanted to clarify the position on TikTok.  So, the administration still has concerns — security concerns about TikTok, even though the campaign has now joined it?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I cannot speak nor will I speak for the campaign. 

Q    Not for the campaign but from the —

MR. KIRBY:  I can’t do that — or their decisions. 

Q    Right.

MR. KIRBY:  Nothing has changed about the national security concerns, from the NSC’s perspective, about the use of TikTok on government devices.  That policy is still in place. 

Q    But surely there must have been some conversation between the White House here and the campaign on whether it was appropriate for the campaign to — to use it, right?

MR. KIRBY:  I can’t speak to that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jacqui.  Last one.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  John, just following up on this TikTok stuff.  Is — is the CFIUS review still happening?

MR. KIRBY:  I’d have to refer you to CFIUS.  I’m not in a position to confirm one way or another what they’re — what they’re looking at.

Q    So, is the administration still weighing a ban on TikTok?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I have nothing for you on that, Jacqui.  I mean, I’d have to refer you to — to CFIUS.  All I can speak to credibly, which I have today, is that, from an NSC perspective, there are still national security concerns about the use of TikTok on government devices.  And there’s been no change to our policy not to allow that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Awesome.  Thank you.

Q    Can you help me understand, though, like, why — why there wouldn’t be any communication between CFIUS and the administration broadly?  I mean, with the National Security Council, given —

MR. KIRBY:  I didn’t say there — I didn’t say there wasn’t.  I just said I’m not able to speak to issues regarding CFIUS.  You’d have to talk to them.  It’s an independent body.  And it’s not something I — I can’t speak for them. 

Q    I think we’re all just trying to square why the President would use this platform that his administration is weighing a national ban on because of national security concerns.

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I’m not going to speak to any hypothetical ban.  I can only tell you that it’s not allowed on government devices.  That policy remains the case.  And I just can’t speak for the campaign or their decisions.  I apologize.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks.  Thank you so much, Admiral.  Thank you.

All right.  Go ahead, Zeke.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just to — another round on that TikTok question.  Are you aware of any communication between the Biden campaign and anyone who works in the White House about the President joining TikTok?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — I can’t speak to any conversations on — on — specifically on TikTok.  We got to be really careful — the campaign, 2024, can’t —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no.  Hold on, hold on, hold on. 

So, we’re not going to comment on any specifics.  And so, certainly, we would defer to the campaign on any strategy.  The CFIUS process is separate and not going to get ahead of — of what we’re going to say here. 

And I would say that the administration is on record for — for supporting the RESTRICT Act, as you all know, something that came up last year.  And it’s a bipartisan bill.  And it is, indeed, tailored and risk-based approach so we can protect Americans’ freedom of speech, and that’s what matters. 

As you know — as you know, there are folks here who are commissioned officers who certain people are allowed to have conversation with the campaign.  But I can’t speak to any specific conversations that are havening — happening about this particular issue. 

Again, it’s under CFIUS review.  Want to be really mindful of not getting ahead of that.  And also, it’s the campaign, so that is something that they would have to — have to speak to. 

And the reason why it is banned on government — government phones or government properties, obviously, devices is because that is an act of Congress.  That is something that Congress wanted — put forward to make sure that no government — government devices are used.

Q    Were you aware before the — before the campaign posted —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.

Q    — to TikTok?  Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I — I am very, very careful.  As the White House Press Secretary, I have to — I’m in a different — kind of in a different box than most.  And so, I do not communicate with the campaign on any strategy or — or anything like that.  And so, I’m just very, very mindful of that.  I did not know.  I knew as — as you all did.

Q    And then a few follow-ups on the Special Counsel’s report —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — last week.  The — when Ian Sams was here on Friday, he said the White House was considering releasing the transcript of the President’s convers- — conversa- — interview with the special counsel, which you all have objected to that characterization of that.  Do you have an update on that review process?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, certainly I’m going to refer you to the — my colleagues at the White House Counsel.  I know the President’s personal attorney, obviously, spoke to this on one of the Sunday shows yesterday.  So, I know they’re — they have been responsive.  The team here have been responsive to those specific questions.  I just don’t have anything to share. 

Q    But, also, the discussion about the Pre- — the President’s ordering it — the creation of a task force to change policies around the handling of classified information in a — in a presidential transition.  Do you have any updates on when the President will create that task force?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any updates on that particular question about the task force.

Q    The President’s personal di- — notes from his time as vice president were among those items that were reviewed by the special counsel, and — and the interagency found they contained classified — in some cases, highly classified information.  Does the President still keep a diary and notebooks now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, that particular question, obviously, the White House Counsel would be able to speak to more directly.  But I do want to remind everyone that this was a 15-month investigation.  And I think the outcome of that investigation, obviously, has been stated, is that counsel — the special counsel has not found any — nothing to prosecute.  And I think that’s important to note. 

And I — anything beyond that, any specific questions about diary or anything like that, I would have to refer you to the White House Counsel.
Q    And then, lastly, when the President hosts the King later, they’re going to be making statements.  Why isn’t the President —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — and given all of these questions about the special counsel and others — why isn’t he taking questions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, let’s be clear.  The day that the special counsel report came out, the President came out in the evening and took — and made a statement and took questions.  He wanted to make sure that you all heard from him directly.  And so, I want to be really — let’s not forget that that did occur on the day that the report came out. 

Look, the President is — is looking forward to welcoming the King — King Abdullah to the — to the White House.  He comes here every year, as you all know, during his presidency.  And so, he looks, certainly, forward to welcoming the King. 

So, that said — and I said this last week, and I’ll just reiterate — there are a variety of factors that go into decision-making, that go into press con- — if there is going to be a press conference or not during foreign — foreign leaders.  It’s — it depends on those — those conversations that we have with the foreign leaders and how that works out.

Look, you’re going to hear from the President, you’re going to hear from the King later — later today, around four o’clock.  I think that’s important.  You’ll hear directly from them.  There’s just not a press — press conference component to this.  Not every trip — not every visit with a foreign leader has a press conference component.

As I stated, King Abdullah has been here almost every year during this President’s tenure, and they — that has not been the case — a two-plus-two has not been the case.

Q    I just want to follow up on that real quick —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — because you mentioned the — that on Friday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    The German Chancellor gave a press conference across the street in Lafayette Park.  It seems the White House here is the road block.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — that is something for the German Chancellor to speak to — as to their government, why they chose to do that.  I can’t speak to that. 

Every — there is — there are two, obviously, when — when a foreign leader comes, there are two governments that have this discussion.  They go through the process of what they want that trip to look like when they’re here at the White House.  And there are dif- — different varying — various factors that play into that.

And so, every trip is different.  Every trip is different.

And with this particular trip, King Abdullah, every time he’s been here, there has not been a two-plus-two.  That’s what I would remind — remind you all of that as well.

Go ahead, Selina.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A new ABC News/Ipsos poll shows that 86 percent of Americans think Biden is too old to serve another term.  That is a higher percentage than what we found in a previous poll in September.  So, clearly, polling shows this is a persistent issue.  What is the White House strategy to try and change that perception?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’re going to continue to lead on leadership, right?  We’re going to continue to focus on what this President has been able to get done, what the President has been able to get done on behalf of the — of the American people. 

And, look, I’ll quote a little bit of what the First Lady said, I think, incredibly well just a couple days ago: President Biden does “more in one hour than most people do in a day. … His age, with experience and expertise, is an incredible asset, and he proves it every day.”  And that’s what we believe. 

We believe that his age and his experience — because he was a senator; because he was, obviously, a vice president; because he has these long — you know, long decades of relationships with leaders, obviously, across the globe — and what he’s been able to do, that’s what we’re going to lean into.  That’s what we’re going to speak to. 
We’re going to speak to how he turned the economy back on its feet.  We’re going to speak to the 14.8 million jobs that he was able to create, how unemployment is at under 4 percent, how is he — he’s able to beat Big Pharma, because Medicare can now negotiate and lower costs for the American people. 

That’s what we’re going to focus on.  And I think that’s the most important thing at this moment, at this time, is delivering for the American people and continuing to do that.

Q    And bouncing off of the previous question.  The numbers show that President Biden has engaged in about 33 news conferences.  Compare that to Obama’s 66 and Donald Trump’s 52 by this time in their presidencies.  Can you explain why the President isn’t doing —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look —

Q    — more?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, and I hear the question, and I know that folks want to hear you all.  And it’s important, because when you all hear from the President, obviously so does the American people.  So, we get the importance of that.  And we’re always going to try to find ways — obviously, outside of press conferences as well — to — for the President to be out there.

And we have found some nontraditional ways.  We think it’s important to try and meet the American people where they are.  And so, that is important as well.  Whether it’s a podcast, that’s an — important or, you know, doing — doing certain things that is not the norm.

Obviously, the person — the President, I should say, takes — you know, takes your questions when he’s on the road as — you know, more often than not.  And he finds it important to have those conversations when you all are out there with him on the road, taking your questions.  And so, he does do that.

As far as press conferences, we’re going to try and make sure when it’s the right time for — for those to happen, certainly we will — we will do so.  But it doesn’t mean that this President does not engage with — with the press corps — with the White — White House press corps or with other reporters, journalists out there who have different — different ways with communicating with the American people as well.  We think that’s important too.

Q    But why is it more effective to forego a Super Bowl interview and in- — instead —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we’ve talked about this.

Q    — post short clips on social media?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve talked about this.  We believe that it is an important, obviously, tradition to — to watch the Super Bowl.  And we think there are different ways to communicate with the American people.  And we’re going to try and find different ways to meet the American people where they are.

And so, that’s a — that’s a choice that we’ve made here that we think is actually important and effective.

Q    Karine, there was some reporting this morning that President Biden told some campaign donors that Prime Minister Netanyahu, quote, “has been a pain in my ass lately” or, quote, “he’s been killing me lately.”  The reason we don’t know what the exact quote is is because the press was not in that meeting that the President had with these donors.

Why is the President not living up to his full transparency pledge in terms of opening all meetings with donors to the press?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I think that — so, when the — first of all, I want to be careful.  These are campaign — campaign events, so I just want to be mindful.  Can’t speak to each of them or, really, most of them.  I know that — and as you know, when the President does speak in front of — when he does do some of these fundraising events — right? — there is — when he gives remarks, formal remarks, the pr- — the press pool is in there and they are listening to the remarks and get to — get to hear directly what the President says.

So, I think that’s also very important.  I don’t want to make it sound like he does not — there is not a process there, that when he is in front of donors giving formal remarks, that you all are not in the room as he is speaking. 

I can’t speak to this particular — to this particular scenario.  I think that is something certainly he — he does have private meetings.  That is true.  And when he has those private meetings, those meetings — so that there is candor and — and honesty and so that he can hear directly from folks, those tend to be private. 

But I want to be really careful here in speaking into every — every scenario that happens, because I don’t — I can’t speak to that particular scenario.

Q    Should — should the President of the United States be engaging privately with a random set of financial donors about issues that are of clear public import, like his opinion —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, he —

Q    — of the Israeli Prime Minister?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I hear your question.  But the President has private meetings all the time.  He does.  He has private meetings all the time.  And —

Q    Right.  But these aren’t foreign leaders.  Right?  These are people who are giving money to him —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, but —

Q    — to his campaign.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I hear you, but he has private meetings with everyday people.  Some of these donors have — and I want to be super mindful here — have concerns — right? — as well, just like American — everyday American people that he has private meetings with or he sees on the road.  It’s not every meeting that’s going to be public. 

But when he has — when he gives remarks at fundraisers, there is a — formal remarks — there is — the press pool tends to be in the room, or is in the room.  Private meetings are different.  And so, that’s the way it’s been for the — you know, for the past three years in this — this administration. 

Look, I want to be really careful.  These are campaign — obviously, some of them, campaign-, DNC-related meetings, so I just want to be super, super mindful here.

Q    And what’s the distinction between formal and informal remarks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I would — honestly, I’m going to refer you — on anything that’s related to these specific meetings, I would refer you to the campaign, because they’re the ones that put it together.  They’re the ones that bring the folks in the room.  I just want to be super mindful and not go down — too far — too far a rabbit hole here.

Go ahead, M.J.

Q    Hey, Karine.  Any updates on when the President’s physical might be taking place?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, he will have a physical.  When we — when we have information on that, obviously, we will certainly share that with all of you.  It will be transparent.  There will be a — a comprehensive report, as we have done the last two years.  Just don’t have a — just don’t have a timeline for you.

Q    Do you — do you plan on the press getting a heads-up before the physical happens, or will we find out once it has taken place?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re going to do it the way that we’ve done it the last two years.  It’s not going to be anything different.  So, the way that we’ve approached this the last two years will be the same way that we do this this year —

Q    And — and does —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — this third year.

Q Does the White House think that the — the idea of the President taking a cognition test — a cognitive test, as a part of this physical is a legitimate idea, particularly just on the heels of the special counsel report; more polling, as my colleague Selina just mentioned, showing that many American people have concerns about that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I got this question last week, as well.  And I’m just going to say what the — what Dr. O’Connor — it’s kind of a — what he said to me about a year ago when the report came out last year, obviously, on his physical, which is the President proves every day how he operates, how he thinks — right? — by dealing with world leaders, by making really difficult decisions on behalf of the — the American people, whether it’s domestic, whether it’s national security.  And so, he shows it every day on how he thinks, how he operates.  And so, that is how — that is how Dr. O’Connor sees it.  And that’s how I’m going to leave it.

Q    What do you think about the idea of taking that kind of a test?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look — and I talked about this last week, too, on, I believe, whenever — on Friday.  I have known this president since 2009.  I — he is not just my — my boss, but, you know, he’s also some- — a mentor to me.  And I spent sometimes countless hours with him, whether it’s in the Oval Office, whether it’s on the road.  And I believe, for me — you’re asking me my personal opinion — he is sharp.  He is on top of things. 

He — when we have meetings with him, with his staff, he’s constantly pushing us, getting — trying to get more information.  And so, that has been my experience with this president. 

Anything else outside of that — I just shared with you what Dr. O’Connor said to me, and so I’ll just leave it there.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I know you’re not going to comment on the campaign or its decisions, but does the White House believe that TikTok is giving Americans, especially younger Americans, false perceptions about President Biden and his broader agenda?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m going to be really careful about speaking to TikTok specifically because there is a CFIUS review.  They’re in an independent body.  And they are going to move forward with whatever they decide to do.  So, don’t want to step into that. 

Obviously, more broadly, as it relates to social media platforms, we’ve always said there is misinformation, disinformation out there that we have to try and combat.  And so, we’ve always been very clear, we’ve always been concerned about our young people and the information that — the misinformation, disin- — that they’re getting and how that’s affecting their lives.  That is a concern that we have.  And we’ve talked about that very explicitly, very clearly.

As it relates to TikTok, going to be really careful because of that CFIUS review.  And so, just want to be super, super mindful. 

So, obviously, just not going to comment on specific cases.

Q    Separately, the Senate is on track to pass the national security supplemental this week.  Still not clear if Speaker Johnson is going to bring that up for a vote in the House.  Does the President plan to have any outreach with House Republican leadership to try to get that across the finish line?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you know how important the President thinks it is to get that very all-important funding — security assistance to Ukraine; obviously, Israel, Indo-Pacific.  We’ve been very clear about that. 

Obviously, we had this really careful, strategic conversations as well with Senate Republicans and Democrats for the past couple of months for the border security because we th- — we believe that entire package was important.  But, obviously, Republicans got — Republicans, specifically in the House, got in the way and would not move that forward. 

And it’s unfortunate because that is the way, we believe, we would have been able to deal with policy issues and funding issues as it relates to the border, the challenges at the border, and also immigration. 

So, look, we are in constant communication — the team here, the Office of Leg Affairs, and other White House officials are in constant communication, obviously, with the leadership on both sides — on both sides of chamber — in each chamber to try and figure out how we’re going to move forward, how we’re going to make sure that this all-important — all-important funding gets out there. 

And so, conversations are going to continue.  We are –obviously, what we wanted to see is to — the border security component, negotiation piece of that, to be included.  But we are where we are.  And we — but we believe it’s important.  It’s important to move forward.

Q    But would the President get directly involved in those conversations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any conversations to read out.  Obviously, he tends to have private conversations.  We don’t read out every conversation.  He has relationships with folks in Congress.  But his Office of — his Office of Leg Affairs and other White House officials are in regular touch with congressional leadership and keeps — they also keep the President updated as well, which is important. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  Just two things.  The first on the guidance we got for the week.  There were public events for the President today and on Friday.  I was hoping you might be able to give us a sense on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, as you make the case that the President has a lot of vigor and is doing a lot of things — (laughter) — what — what is — what has he got planned?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just talk about Friday a little bit, because I think people — I know that an advisory went out on — over the weekend about East Palestine.  All — all of you know that he’s going to be going to East Palestine on Friday.  He’s going to be traveling there.  And it’s because of the invitation that he received from the mayor. 

So, it’s going to be really important.  And while — while the President is on the ground, he’ll — he’ll get a briefing on the ongoing response and speak to the administration’s work to — to keep Norfolk Suffolk [Southern] accountable, which is incredibly important, and support the community as it moves forward. 

He also has heard loud and clear from the folks in East Palestine that they don’t want to be defined by an event.  And so, he’ll — he’ll speak to the administration’s work to deliver on the needs for family businesses that are affected.

And let’s not forget, there is the Bipartisan Railways Safety Act that he is going to continue to call on Congress to — to move forward on.

So, that is going to be a really important trip.  You are correct about that.  The President will be out there meeting directly for the — with the American people. 

I don’t have any — anything yet for tomorrow, Wednesday, or Thursday.  Obviously, when — when things move or we have something to share, we’ll certainly put that — put it — put that out there on the daily guidance.  And, obviously, there’s some movement happening in Congress as well that we’re keeping a close eye on.  And so, once we have more to share, we’ll have more to share on that.

Q    And then, secondly, you — you started the briefing by wishing a congratulations to the Kansas City Trie — Chiefs, as — as well as to all the Swifties out there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)

Q    I’m wondering: When the Chiefs are invited to the White House, does the White House intend to also invite Taylor Swift?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s going to be up to the Ka- — to the Chiefs and, obviously, their decision to figure out who’s going to come with them when they come.  And as you know, it’s a White House tradition.  I can’t — I can’t speak to attendance and who will be here. 

But we look forward — we look forward to having them here.  And, obviously, we congratulate them on a — on a great win.

Go ahead, Annie.

Q    Thanks so much.  You talked a lot about how — and the President says this too — that people should watch him —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — when there are questions about his age.  And then — and the issue seems to be that they are watching him in public events, in — in some press conferences and are coming to this conclusion, many of them, that he is — he’s too old. 

So, what I’m wondering is: Is he behaving differently behind closed doors?  Because we don’t get to see that at all.  And are you — do you see and — when you interact with him privately, is there kind of a different, sort of, level of vigor that is perhaps not as visible when we’re all seeing him publicly?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, let me just first say — and I was on the swing with him recently, right?  He went to Wisconsin, he went to Michigan, he went to California, he went to Vegas, and he’s going to go to Ohio later this week.  And so, he visited small businesses and he met with people on the road, obviously, and spent hours with them.  So, folks have seen him and you all have seen him yourselves as you cover this President.

And so, you see him interact.  You see him engage.  And even when he was in Vegas, he took some questions that you all had and that — you know, and — and answer — he tends to answer them in — in a light way, a funny way, and is sharp with his answers to some of you about that.

And so, look — and he is also meeting with world leaders.  He did that with the German Chancellor.  He’s obviously going to do this today with King Abd- — Abdullah.

And I spoke already about my experience with him.  And just to answer your question: I have spent countless hours with this president, whether in the Oval Office or on the road, and I have to say he’s sharp, he’s engaged, he pushes us for information.

Q    But is there anything like — like emails at, like, two o’clock in the morning —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)

Q    — or, you know, is there any sort of, like —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I think —

Q    Can you sort of put, like, a finer point on what it is exactly that, like, you see that somehow isn’t, you know, coming across to the rest of the American people?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I think the fact that when he meets with his te- — his team, when he meets with staff, he is, as I said, incredibly engaged; as I said, very sharp; and asks us back and forth — we go back and forth on whatever information, whatever is — is maybe the news of the day that’s on — that’s — that’s on his mind.  And it happens very often.

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And so, that’s my experience with him.  But you all see him on the road.  I mean, you know, he was — when we were in Vegas, he was asked about — you know, about — he was asked a specific question about the former President, and he answered that in a — in a fun, sharp, you know, kind of way.  And that’s him.  That is him.  What you see there is him.

And so, look, I think — and I do want to step back for a second, because I think what’s very important, too, is this President’s record in the last three years and what he’s been able to get done.  And that matters.  And that matters.

And so, yes, we’re going to continue to be out there.  The President is going to continue to do everything that he can to speak directly to the American people.  And we believe that is what’s important here: getting that work done, continuing to move forward in a — in a — an impressive record of — in the last three years, especially for any modern president.

Whether it’s dealing with infrastructure, whether it’s dealing with beating Big Pharma, whether it’s getting the economy back on its feet, all of these things are important. 

Let’s not forget what’s going on outside of this country — what’s going on in Ukraine, what’s going on in the Middle East.  This is something that the President has been able to do in a pretty effective way.

Q    And then just to follow up quickly on Matt’s question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    When Super Bowl teams are invited to the White House, do they typically have a plus one?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  I actually — that’s a good question.  I — I can’t answer that right now.  But, look, we — we are looking forward to having them here — the Chiefs.  And they — it was a — it was a great — it was a great — a great win.  And just like we do in every — every — this is a White House tradition, to have the S- — the winners of the Super Bowl here.  And so, we’re looking forward to it.

Go ahead.  I haven’t called on you yet.  Go ahead.

Q    Is the White House doing anything to move the stalled child and biz tax bill in the Senate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that one more time.

Q    Is the White House doing anything to move forward the stalled child and biz tax bill in the Senate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, the Pre- — the President supports that bipartisan — bipartisan legislation.  We’ve talked about it in here before.  There’s always conversations that we’re having with congressional leadership and staff on important — obviously important pieces of legislation that matters to the American people.

I don’t have anything to read out.  But obviously, we’re in support of that particular legislation.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Yeah, thanks.  On shrinkflation and the President’s video from this weekend on inflation.  So — thanks, Karine, by the way.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Sure.

Q    The — the President is blaming companies again now, it seems, for inflation.  And based on his policies, though, does the President accept any responsibility for where prices are since he came into office?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  Look, we understand how grocery — how grocery prices are a major concern for hardworking families.  We get it.  We get that there — that there are — the prices are still, you know, kind of — kind of hurting Americans. 

But what we’ve seen is that prices have gone down for eggs, for milk, for seafood.  And that’s important.  They — they are lower than they were a year ago.  And we know that’s not enough.

And so, what we — the President has continued — continuously done — and you see this in this video that you’re speaking of — he’s called on large corporations to pass their savings on to hard — hardworking Americans.  That’s what we’re doing.  And I think that’s important that this Pres- — President sees that. 

And then, in shrinkflation, for so — for folks who are watching doesn’t quite know what that is — what we’re seeing is the size of a product gets smaller even as the prices stays the same.  And that shouldn’t be.  And so, the President is going to call that.

And it’s — you know, and what you’re — you’re seeing, it’s giving families less — less for their — bang for their buck, if you think about that.  And so, the President has said, and I quote, he’s tired of being — he’s tired of seeing the American people being played for suckers.  And that is something that he’s not going to allow.

But as it relates to — as it relates to what the President is going to continue to do, he’s going to continue lower — do everything that he can to lower costs for the American people.  And you’ve seen him do that.

Q    And on — on his doctor, when can we talk to the President’s doctor?  And how come he hasn’t been — they haven’t been asked to come out here and talk with us, given the Hur report that challenges the President’s mental fitness?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you know, just to speak to the Hur report really, really quickly.  Special Counsel Hur is — as far as I remember, is a — is a — obviously, a R- — a Republican, a — a prosecutor.  He’s not a — he’s not a medical doctor.  He’s just not.  It’s not for him to speak to.  It’s just not.

And — and you’ve heard from — over the past couple of days since the report has been out, you’ve heard from legal experts from across the ideological spectrum, even a former Attorney General.  And he says — and they have come out to say that the stuff in this report that is capturing all of your attention right now is just wrong — is flatly wrong.  It is inappropriate.  It is gratuitous.

And so, going to leave that there.  And it is obviously up for a medical doctor to decide on that. 

Q    But can we talk to his doctor, then?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, I have said the Pres- — the medical doctor, the President’s doctor is going to do a physical.  He’s going to — and he has always put forth, in the last two years, a detailed — detailed memo on the President’s — on the President’s, obviously, medical physical. 

And so, I’m just going to leave it there.  I don’t have anything else to add.

Go ahead, Jared.

Q    Just curious, to sort of follow up and get some clarity.  If these transcripts were released, who makes that decision?  Is that the Counsel’s Office?  Is it the President’s personal —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything else to share.  That’s something that the counsel could speak to.  They’ve been answering those questions for the past couple of days.  They have to speak to that.

Q    Has President Biden expressed the desire to have the full transcript released?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You have to talk — you have to speak to the counsel.  They’ve been answering these questions for the past couple of days of incoming.  On these particular — on this particular question on the transcript, they have to speak to that.

All right.  Go ahead, Brian.

Q    Thanks a lot.  As you know, at the beginning of March, the funding for the government runs out.  What has the President been doing to avoid a government shutdown and make sure that the funding is going to be there at the beginning of March to fund important programs like WIC and SNAP?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, the President thinks that those programs should be funded.  The President thinks that Congress should do their jobs and do the basic part of their jobs and fund that — fund these incredible — incredibly important programs that the American family believe in or need just to survive.

And so, that’s what the President wants to see: Congress get to it, do their job, and make sure that the government does not shut down.  He did his job.  The President did his job a couple months ago, back in the spring of — actually, last year — not even a couple of months ag — and brokered a deal — brokered the deal with Congress, both the House and the Senate, to get a bipartisan deal forward to make sure that — this is during the deficit — remember? — and the — and the debt ceiling.

And so, he brokered that deal.  It became law because two thirds of the House Republicans voted for it.  It got bipartisan support in the Senate.  And that was the deal that he brokered.

Now Congress needs to get there — to get this done.

Q    Has he designated a negotiating team that he wants involved from the White House on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, he — we negotiated on this, Brian.  We did.  We negotiated on this.  Two thirds of House Republicans voted for it, a bipartisan support from the Senate. And Congress should do their basic job, which is keep — keep the government open and make sure these very important — -important programs that you just listed out gets funded.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, guys.  We’ll see you tomorrow.
 Thanks.

2:11 P.M. EST

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/02/12/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-white-house-national-security-communications-advisor-john-kirby/