☷Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki May 4 2022
White House ( By Press Release office)
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James S . Brady Press Briefing Room3:37 P . M . EDTMS . PSAKI: Hi , everyone . All right . Just two items to highlight for all of you at the top . Two short items . Today , we announced an upcoming Conference on Hunger , Nutrition and Health . This will bring attention to the burden of hunger and diet - related disease , which were exacerbated during the COVID - 19 pandemic . At the conference , we will release a new national strategy to eliminate hunger and reduce diet - related illnesses such as heart disease and eliminate disparities . This strategy will catalyze the public and private sectors around a coordinated strategy to accelerate progress and drive transformative change in the United States . Also , I know the President spoke about this this morning , but I just wanted to lightly touch on the fact that during the President’s first year in office , the deficit fell by over $350 billion . Again , fell by over $350 billion . And that announcement this morning in his remarks were based on the Treasury Department’s revised estimates of the government’s financing needs from — for this fiscal year . The Treasury Department also announced , and the President touched on it this morning , that it will pay down the national debt this quarter for the first time since 2016 . So , I just wanted to note those items . And then , Aamer , why don’t you kick us off . Q Thanks . I had just a couple on — related to the Alito draft opinion that leaked . First , does the President believe that Justice Kavanaugh and Gorsuch misled or lied to senators about their views on Roe MS . PSAKI: Well , again , given that — while the — while the Supreme Court has validated the document , they have made clear that this is not a final opinion . So the President — I don’t have anything to speak to in terms of his views on where members may or may not be — or Supreme Court justices , I should say , may or may not be on a final opinion . Q And , secondly , President Biden again this morning warned that the draft abortion opinion could go beyond the issue and jeopardize other basic rights . And I think this morning he specifically talked about LGBTQ issues —MS . PSAKI: Yeah . Q — if I remember correctly . Does he want the Court — does he think that this opinion needs to be , at minimum , narrowed MS . PSAKI: Well , again , the President , as much as he spoke yesterday — both in a written statement and also to all of you who are traveling — about his strong views about this leaked document , he’s not going to prejudge or have a comment on an opinion that has not yet been issued . What he was speaking to — and I — and he touched on it again this morning — was his long history working on a range of these issues . As you all know from his biography , he led the fight against the nomination of Robert Bork . And what struck him in reading the leaked document was how some of the language reminded him of Robert Bork’s view of the narrow definition of how one should analyze or review what the Constitution allows for . And if you remember during that — those hearings — I know many of you , including myself , were quite young during the time , but we all read history — part of the big debate there , or the big discussion , was the Griswold vs . Connecticut case , which was related to privacy and whether married couples should be able to have the privacy to purchase contraception . And so I think what you’re hearing play out is the President’s own reaction to what he saw in these documents and his view that — the protection of privacy and the protection of the ability of women to make decisions about their healthcare with their doctors , about people to be able to choose who they marry . And to him , reading that , it reminded him of how important those protections are . And that’s what he — why you continue to hear him talk about it . Q And , finally , if I could just ask briefly on Chairman Powell . MS . PSAKI: Yeah . Q He just said that the Fed is limited in how it can deal with supply shocks that have been leading to higher inflation . So what more can the White House and Congress do , given that challenge MS . PSAKI: Well , I would — I would note also , as you and others have reported , that there were — there were announcements made about decisions — actions the Federal Reserve intends to take , which are consistent with what they have said they would do to date . And the President has said in the past that it’s appropriate , and he supports their decision to recalibrate . So that remains his view today . In terms of what more we can do to address inflation — I mean , I would also note that during his comments , Chair Powell also noted the strength of the economy . He also noted that there’s a path for a soft landing without pushing the economy into recession . He had a lot to say , of course , during this press conference . So I just wanted to note a couple of the things . But what more we can do beyond , of course , respecting the independence of the Federal Reserve and the decisions they make , including those announced today , is to continue to take steps to address costs for the American people . Chair Powell also said , or echoed — I think it was in response to a question — the point that energy prices , and specifically the invasion by President Putin , was having an impact on inflation . And so one of the President’s primary focuses right now , as you all know , is taking any step we can to bring down costs , whether that is the historic release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve , leading the world in their own release; continuing to talk to large global providers of oil and what they can do to help the global market , even the announcements we’ve made over the last couple of weeks about E15; and taking any step we can to reduce those costs; and also continuing to have conversations with leaders on Capitol Hill and members about steps we can take to reduce costs for the American people , whether it’s childcare , healthcare , eldercare , prescription drugs . All of these have an impact on people’s day - to - day lives . Go ahead . Q Jen , back to abortion , if I can: Yesterday , you said the leak raises eyebrows , including for many here in the White House . But does the White House condemn — explicitly condemn this leak and — or has seeing this draft been seen as welcome by some here MS . PSAKI: I don’t think we have a particular view on that other than to say that we certainly note the unprecedented nature of it . What we are mindful of — and I spoke with the President about exactly this question yesterday , and obviously it’s up to the Department of Justice to determine what , if any , action they will take . And I know , obviously , there have been calls for that from some Republicans but also members of the Supreme Court . But our focus is on not losing sight from what the content is in the draft and what is at risk here . And while we have heard a number raised concerns about the leak , our focus is on highlighting what the content in there would risk — put at risk for women across the country . So , again , we’ll leave it to the Department of Justice to make a decision about that . I would note that many Republicans have wanted to talk about that and not about whether they support the protection of a woman’s right to choose , a woman’s right to make decisions with her doctor about her healthcare . Maybe not a surprise , given we’re — by more than a two - to - one margin , Americans want the Supreme Court to support abortion rights . Q And as for the content of the draft — the document , the draft — it is , of course , a draft — but if the Supreme Court does move to strike down Roe , should Americans be prepared to just accept that decision as legitimate And would President Biden accept that decision as legitimate MS . PSAKI: Well , I can’t speak for what actions could be possible on the legal front; I would point you to the Department of Justice on that . But what I can tell you will happen is — and this is what we are preparing for the possibility of — that if Roe were to fall , abortion would probably be illegal in about half the states in the country , up to 26 states , particularly in the South , the Midwest , and West , who have all spoken out — many leaders — about how they’re poised to restrict or ban access . Some have even taken action , even as recently as yesterday , as crazy as that sounds . And depending on the Court’s position — decision — 13 states even have trigger laws . Trigger laws mean they would basically immediately put in place bans . And as a result of all of this , tens of millions of women may lack access to reproductive healthcare services as soon as this summer , if that were a decision to be made . I’d also note — and as we’re thinking about and working with not just the Gender Policy Council but also the Department of Health and Human Services , also members on the Hill , also the Counsel’s Office , what we’re really focused on is the impact this would have . It would dramatically reduce access to reproductive care , particularly for women with low incomes , women of color , women in rural communities . We know that 75 percent of those seeking abortions are living at or below 200 percent of the poverty level , and the majority of patients seeking abortions identify as Black , Hispanic , and AAPI . So if you look at the 26 states , let’s take for example — or the 13 to 26 , depending — and you look at a map , that means that women — the majority of whom are below that poverty level and are Black , Hispanic , or AAPI — are going to be forced to figure out how to travel , how to take time off of work , how to get childcare . It is a prohibitive cost . It will not be safe . And that is what we are focused on working to address as we’re making policy decisions and considerations . Q So it — it sounds like you’re saying , then , that’s a yes — he would consider this a legitimate decision . MS . PSAKI: Well , there is not even a decision yet . We don’t know the validity of the — we know that this is a leaked document; it is not the final opinion . So , I just can’t speak to that hypothetically at this point in time . Go ahead . Q Jen , just following up on that . In the President’s statement yesterday , he said he had asked the Gender Policy Council —MS . PSAKI: Yeah . Q — and the White House Counsel’s Office to look at options . What can the administration do if that’s what the decision ends up being in June MS . PSAKI: Well , why — the reason I noted all of what I just did , Jeff , is because we’re really looking at who this would deeply , directly impact the most . Of course , there is — the majority — overwhelming majority of women in this country do not want this to be overturned . But the impact directly will be predominantly on women of color , will be on the 75 percent of those seeking abortions who are living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level . So , while I can’t at this point give you a preview of what we would do in response to a hypothetical final opinion , what I can tell you is that we’ve already seen states restrict — right — in — across the country . And if you look at Texas , for example , they — obviously , they put their restrictions in place . And Planned Parenthood and other organizations have put out statistics suggesting that clinics in neighboring states have seen increases of 600 , 700 , 800 percent of people traveling to their clinics . So , you will see that . You will see people try to travel to states . And what we’ve done to date — and to try to help , to date , where we have seen restrictions — which gives you kind of a tiny bit of a roadmap , even though it obviously would be much more expanded beyond this — is created , for example , the Dire Need Grant awards , which provide funding to expand access to emergency contraception , family planning services . We just announced $6 . 6 million in awards made to eight grantees across the country and around the country . We also have — I would note , the Department of Justice and the Attorney General’s statements in response to Texas SB 8 , which again is what — is an example of what we’ve seen in terms of the impact , to date — and their commitment to continuing to defend the law to protect the safety of patients seeking access to reproductive health services . HHS has also announced a three - pronged , department - wide response to protect patients and providers . So , again , what we’re looking at is how to ensure we’re expanding access , how to ensure we are taking a look at the enormous impact on a specific portion of the population . And this is an across - government effort beyond just the Gender Policy Council . Q ( Inaudible ) breaking news on that Q And —Q Sorry . Go ahead , Jeff . Go ahead . Q I was just going to ask: Would that manifest itself in executive orders Or what specifically might the framework for that kind of action be MS . PSAKI: We’re not there yet . Obviously , what we’ve done to date , Jeff , is taken steps through obviously the Department of Justice , which they can speak to; through grant programs and funding programs that we’ve been able to put in place , to date , to address even restrictions that are in states , to date , which is not the same as the Supreme Court overturning . And we will build on that from here . What was the breaking news Go ahead . Q Jen , we just learned that the Secretary of State Antony Blinken has tested positive for COVID via PCR test . If you could walk us through what more you know about that — we’ve received a statement from the State Department — but most notably , the most recent time he was face to face with the President and the circumstances . MS . PSAKI: The Pres - — he has not seen the President in several days , and he is not considered a close contact . I would remind you all — that’s a strange phrase , I know — but “close contact , ” as defined by the CDC , is being within 10 feet for 15 — 10 feet for 15 minutes . Q Six feet . MS . PSAKI: That is not — six feet , I’m sorry . Six feet for 15 minutes . He has not been and has not seen him in severaldays . Q So , for clarity — because we’re learning about a lot of cases right now . It’s not the first time Washington has seen —MS . PSAKI: Yeah . Q — these ricochets; it’s been going on for several weeks . Has the President been identified as a close contact to anybody who has just tested positive for COVID MS . PSAKI: If he had , we would have announced that publicly to all of you . And we have clearly made decisions when it has been Cabinet members or even when it’s been people who play a public role with all of you . We have made announcements out of an abundance of transparency . Q And just — so , for transparency purposes , we know he has tested negative recently . When was the most recent negative test that —MS . PSAKI: He tested negative yesterday . Q Yesterday . MS . PSAKI: The President , that is . Q And then , finally , in terms of preventive medications right now , can you say declaratively: Is the President taking any pre - exposure preventive medications to deal with COVID MS . PSAKI: He is not . The preventative medication that has been approved by the FDA is Evusheld , which is given to people who are immunocompromised , and he is not immunocompromised . Q Also not taking Bebtelovimab or something MS . PSAKI: I’m not aware of any medication he is taking . Q Jen —Q Thank you , Jen . MS . PSAKI: Go ahead . Q Thank you so much . Several days since Blinken last saw the President . Do you know what day exactly that was MS . PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you the exact day . Q And to follow on Jeff’s questions when it comes to the options that the President has said he’s directed his team to prepare , should we not expect to see those options until this ruling comes down from the Supreme Court MS . PSAKI: I — that’s correct . That’s what I would expect . Q Do you not think it would be too late to unveil the options then , given it seems imminent that this is the direction that the Supreme Court is headed in MS . PSAKI: Well , again , we don’t have a final conclusion . The Supreme Court themselves made clear this is not the final opinion . So , we will — we will be — we are already working a great deal behind the scenes , and we will have more to say if and when there is a final — there will be at some point , but when there’s a final opinion . Q And a question about something Senator Manchin said today . He said he believes inflation will be the number - one driving factor in the midterms , not abortion , not this potential ruling from the Supreme Court . Does the White House see it that way MS . PSAKI: I mean , all we can judge it based on is what we’ve seen in public polls . That remains the data , to date . Right But , obviously , the news of yesterday just came out yesterday . Q And today , the President was sharply critical of the MAGA crowd and the MAGA agenda . Is that what we should expect to be his message going into the midterms MS . PSAKI: Well , I think , for those of you who’ve been covering him for some time , you’ve heard him say — and maybe back more to the campaign trail , less as President — “Don’t compare me to the Almighty . Compare me to the alternative . ” And I would expect you will hear him with that mantra much more out there over the next coming months . You know , he is so - — he has been struck , clearly , because he has talked about this — as you mentioned , Kaitlan — this morning and he also has made comments over the last several days about the direction of some in the Republican Party — the MAGA direction of some in the Republican Party . And he’s been struck by the hold his predecessor seems to have on far too many members — not all , but far too many members of the party . And what we’re seeing — the latest antics are — made clear that they are at war with Mickey Mouse , they’re against allowing women to make choices about their own healthcare , against lowering the cost of prescription drugs . And if that remains their platform , the President’s view is: That is out of whack with the mainstream of the country . Now , at the same time , he’s always believed that — in working with Republicans in good faith and finding ways to do that . And he will continue to do that , but he is going to also call out — and you will see him call out more — places where he feels there are extreme va - — policies and extreme comments and extreme positions that are , unfortunately , overtaking far too much of the party . Q And you just said “his predecessor . ” Today , he seemed to purposefully say “my predecessor . ” He did not say “Trump”; he said “MAGA” instead of “Trump . ” Is that deliberate MS . PSAKI: Well , as far as I know , he’s not on the ballot . A number of his — of Republicans who have seemed to be under the whim of his predecessor are , so that’s who he’s going to focus his efforts on . Go ahead . Q Quick question about interest rates with the Fed’s action today . As interest rates go up , the cost of carrying the national debt also increases and interest payments go up . MS . PSAKI: Yeah . Q Are there any concern about possible complications with the President keeping his deficit reduction pledge if the cost of paying interest on the national debt is going to go up as interest rates go up MS . PSAKI: I have not heard that concern expressed by our economic team . You know , we are proud of the announcement made this morning; hence , the President spoke to it . And taking additional steps to reduce the deficit remain his commitment . So I have not — I have not heard that concern from them . Q Another question . Axios is reporting that in his meeting with Marc and Debra Tice earlier this week , the President pledged to directly engage with Syria to se - — try to secure Austin’s release . Is that true MS . PSAKI: Well , I would note that our hostage negotiator , our — Roger Carstens — that is the type of work that he does and will continue to do . Go ahead . Q Thanks . Jen , why did you guys say anything about the leaked draft memo at the Supreme Court MS . PSAKI: How do you mean Q Well , in the past , you have declined to comment on leaked materials . So , why now MS . PSAKI: Well , Peter , I think , as you would note and was reported , the Supreme Court confirmed this — this document was accurate , even it was — if it is not the final opinion . Q The President had a statement out before they confirmed that it was real . So , what changed MS . PSAKI: And in that statement he made clear we don’t know if this is accurate . We don’t know if this document is accurate or the leak is accurate . Q And to follow up on a question earlier , do you guys think — does the President think the leaker should be punished MS . PSAKI: Again , that’s up for the Department of Justice and others to determine . What our focus is on is not getting our — distracted — or our eye off the ball of what is most important to people across the country here , which is not the leak and the story of the leak . It is the fact that women’s healthcare is at risk for millions of people across this country . Q The President said today: “What happens if you have states change the law saying that children who are LGBTQ can’t be in classrooms with other children ” What is he talking about MS . PSAKI: Well , I think , Peter , we’ve seen extreme laws that target LGBTQ families , their kids across the country . And I think what he’s saying is: We don’t know what they’re capable of , given what they’ve already done to date . Q Which state is trying to segregate LGBTQ children in the classroom MS . PSAKI: Well , I think we’ve seen laws that are incredibly discriminatory . That’s what the President is referring to and the fact that he doesn’t know what additional steps could be taken by extreme wings of the party that would rather divide rather than work on issues that the American people actually are focused on and actually are impacting them . Q So , another one about abortion . Why is the President talking about the judgment to choose to abort a child MS . PSAKI: Well , the President’s view on a woman’s right to make choices about her own healthcare is well known , well documented , well stated . Q He said “abort a child . ” Is that —MS . PSAKI: I understand , Peter . But what I’m telling you is what his position is . Q And how can you guys say this is not a political issue when the President’s statement about this talked about getting pro - choice officials elected MS . PSAKI: Did I say it’s not a political issue Q Yes . You actually said , “Some call it a political issue . It is not” — aboard Air Force One . MS . PSAKI: Well , because the vast majority of the public believes that this should not — that this should not be overturned , meaning I meant to say it’s not a partisan issue , and I don’t think it is . There are many Republican and independent women , men across the country who do not believe the Supreme Court should overturn a woman’s right to make choices about her own healthcare . In fact , only 30 percent in recent polls thought they should . So , that’s what I’m referring to . Go ahead . Q Jen , thanks . A couple on the Roe opinion . Earlier this year , President Biden made a speech on voting rights . He said they were under attack , it was important to do that . Will he make an address to the nation on abortion access MS . PSAKI: I don’t have anything to predict about an address to the country . I can tell you that you’ve heard him speak about his views today and yesterday , and it’s only been two days since we saw the leaked documents . Q And on the comments today and yesterday: When he was asked about abortion , the President really focused on privacy , LGBT children , married couples . Why isn’t he speaking more directly about how this impacts women , poor women , women of color How comfortable is he talking about this MS . PSAKI: He has . He did yesterday , both in his written statement and when he addressed this publicly . His point , as he’s continued to talk about this over two days , is also that this brings into question our fundamental rights and the fundamental rights of people across this country on who they marry , what choices they make about their own healthcare . And that goes to his own experience fighting against , again , Robert Bork in his nomination many years ago . Q And he has not used the word “abortion” —MS . PSAKI: It was in his statement yesterday . Q — until yesterday . That’s my question . He hadn’t used the word “abortion” until yesterday . Why did he want to use it yesterday , and what should we take from that MS . PSAKI: When he talks about the — his protect - — his commitment to protecting a woman’s right to choose , women’s healthcare , he’s referring to protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion . I think most people know that . Go ahead . Q Jen , yesterday , the President was giving a speech , and , when he was talking about the CHIPS bill , he said that the Chinese Communist Party was lobbying against the — “lobbying folks to oppose this bill . ” I’m wondering what you guys saw to sort of add that — it was a new line in his speech — what you saw and what are some of the examples of them sort of interfering with our domestic legislative process . MS . PSAKI: Well , I think what he’s referring to is the fact that it’s been well reported — maybe even by Bloomberg — I don’t know; I’d have to check — that the Chinese Communist Party is opposed to this legislation . And that’s what he’s referring to . And , you know , he believes , as you know , that it’s absolutely critical for our national security for Congress to get this Bipartisan Innovation Act to his desk , in large part because it will help protect critical supply chains like semiconductors . It goes to — it’s going to strengthen our supply chains against global shocks . It’s going to help out - compete the rest of the world , including China , for decades to come . So , he was referring to their opposition . Q But not a specific new sort of —MS . PSAKI: Right . Their opposition to it . Exactly . Q There was an Axios report that had , kind of , two parts that I wanted to ask you about . First , that the trip to Israel is going to be added to the European trip in June , but also more substantively that they’re consid - — or you’re considering a regional leader summit as part of that visit . Can you confirm either of those MS . PSAKI: We’re not quite there yet . What I will say is that he — you know about the trip at the end of June because there are some predetermined , kind of , international fora that he will be a part of . And when he spoke with Prime Minister Bennett just a couple of weeks ago , he invited him to Israel . The President accepted and said he’s looking forward to coming , but we haven’t quite locked in the date yet . And so , I don’t have any further detail at this point . Q And then last summit qu - — last question on summits as well . The Summit of the Americas is coming up . MS . PSAKI: Yeah . Q Mexico and the President had a conversation a few days ago . MS . PSAKI: Yeah . Q The leader of Mexico has been pushing for countries — authoritarian governments — Cuba , Venezuela , Nicaragua — to participate in that summit . And I’m wondering if you guys have come to a determination about how you’re going to handle their participation in the summit yet . MS . PSAKI: I’m happy to check . I’m not sure a final determination has been made — or I will check if one has and we can get you that information . Go ahead . Q Thanks , Jen . Building on some of the questions Catherine was asking . Just in regards to keeping the focus on women’s rights , health rights , protecting privacy , how much of the President’s efforts moving forward will be on these issues Does it — does it shoot to the top of the agenda So far , it’s largely been in response to the leak . Does it — how much will be proactively taken now MS . PSAKI: Well , I would dispute that , only — and only because we have — just haven’t talked about this a lot publicly . But I would note that — remember that when these states have taken actions , we’ve also made clear that there was work that the Gender Policy Council , that the White House Counsel’s Office , the Department of Health and Human Services , obviously the Department of Justice would be taking and would be underway . And we have been in touch with leadership about this issue and the threat to Roe in both chambers , as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee , Chair Durbin; the House Women’s Caucus — yes , in the last 36 hours , but also many times in advance about that . And certainly , the leaked document is going to intensify after our efforts — after the news that millions of Americans’ healthcare is on the cusp of being thrown into turmoil . There’s no question about that . But there’s been work by the Gender Policy Council that’s been ongoing for months . There’s been work and engagement with leaders on the Hill about what can be done for months . And certainly , it’s going to be redoubled at this point , given the leaked document . Q On that point of intensifying efforts , what will that look like Are we talking Oval Office meetings Will he travel on this issue Those kinds of things MS . PSAKI: I don’t have anything to predict in terms of his schedule at this point . But what I can tell you is that , as you’ve seen , this is an issue he has proactively talked about in the last two days , both of the two days since the document leaked . The Vice President went and gave a rousing speech at EMILY’s List last night . And — but most — a lot of the most important work is going to happen behind the scenes , and that is going to be the work that is done across the government to determine and prepare for what steps can be taken should this final decision be made . Q On Title 42 , Mexico’s Foreign Minister mentioned , I think in the last day or two , that the Biden administration is expected to present a formal set of ideas to the government on how to contain the expected rise in migration . I assume — or can you share whether the White House is working with the DHS on those set of ideas And is there anything you can share on what those are MS . PSAKI: Well , I would say first that , as you know , Secretary Mayorkas testified and laid out six very specific pillars of effort and work that we would be pursuing . And some of that , of course , is directly with countries in terms of addressing root causes , addressing actions or attempts by smugglers to take advantage of this moment , and working with the Mexican government is part of that . And the President’s conversation and call was put together in order to discuss preparations for the lifting of Title 42 . As part of that , the tasking was for there to be follow - up for members of our national security team and Mexico . That’s continuing , but I don’t have any specifics to read out for you . That was just always intended to be the follow - up step . Go ahead . Q Thanks , Jen . I wanted to pivot to Ukraine . Secretary Austin recently said — and I want to get the quote right — “We believe that we can win , they can win if they have the right equipment , the right support . ” How does the administration actually define “winning” in Ukraine And does it mean that every last Russian troop is out MS . PSAKI: Well , first , I would say the way that President Putin defined — defined “winning” a war that he started from the beginning was taking over Ukraine , enveloping Ukraine into Russia , taking away their territorial integrity and their sovereignty . Clearly , that has not been successful . You know , he expected and was planning to be marching through the streets of Kyiv , victorious , next Monday . Clearly , that is not what is going to happen . He wanted this to be a moment to divide NATO , to divide the West . Clearly , that is not what is happening . We’ve said we want Ukraine to win . We’re going to do everything we can to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to strengthen the Ukrainians’ hands on the battlefield and at the negotiating table . That’s our role . And they are defending their homeland courageously and bravely from the continued attacks from the Russians . B
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