Aboard Air Force One
En Route Tel Aviv, Israel
8:06 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Hi, everyone.
As you know, we’re on our way to Tel Aviv. I just have a couple things at the top before I turn it over to my colleague.
So, the President felt strongly it was important to continue to stand in solidarity with Israel and the Israeli people in their hour of need following the appalling terror- –terrorist attacks last week that killed more than 1,300 people and at least 31 Americans.
The President also believes it’s an important moment to travel to the region to discuss humanitarian needs in Gaza and other crucial issues at hand.
We’re traveling to a region in which there is active conflict, as you all know, and very real security concerns, so we may not be able to read out every expected piece of our trip to the region, but we’ll do our best to answer all of your questions.
And one more thing I wanted to touch on is hate crimes.
President Biden ran for office to restore the soul of the nation — of our nation.
He has been unequivocal: There is no place for hate in America — not against Jews, not against Muslims, not against Arab Americans, not against anyone.
Yet, the latest FBI hate crime numbers released yesterday demonstrate the count- — the continuing scourge of hate-fueled crimes in our country. They also demonstrate what this President has continually said: Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate are all connected, and we cannot be silent in the face of hate.
And, of course, this report comes at a challenging time for some of the communities most impacted by violence — hate violence, more specific.
After the terrorist attacks in Israel, the President directed his Homeland Security team to prioritize the prevention and disruption of any emerging threats that could harm Jewish, Muslim, Arab American, or any other communities during this time.
Last week, the President joined a White House meeting with Jewish community leaders to discuss the fight against antisemitism. He also spoke publicly about the United States’ efforts to surge support in response to the devastating humanitarian crisis in Gaza impacting innocent Palestinians and Palestinian Americans.
And on Sunday, the President issued a statement about the unspec- — unspeakably hor- — horror, murder — horrific murder of a six-year-old Palestinian American child and the attempted murder of the child’s mother in their home in Illinois.
The President and his Homeland Security team will continue to engage with Jewish, Muslim, and Arab American organizations, with law enforcement, and with other community organizations to combat hate-fueled violence.
The President has and will continue to do everything in his power to fight antisemitism and Islamophobia in our nation. And th- — and that work will not end until every American has the freedom to live their lives in safety and without fear.
With that, as you can see, I’m joined by Admiral Kirby from NSC, and he’s going to have a few words to say at the top and take your questions.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Admiral.
MR. KIRBY: I think you probably all saw the President’s statement about the hospital explosion. As you saw, he’s — he’s outraged; he’s saddened. We’re all shocked by the horrific loss of life. The numbers are staggering for a single event.
He has directed the national security team to — to gather as much information and context as possible so that we can learn more about how this happened.
And as he said in his statement and as we’ve been saying now for now on a week, the — we are unequivocal in our firm belief that innocent civilian lives should not be suffered, should not be lost, should not be injured by — by the fighting between Israel and Hamas.
The proper number of civilian casualties in a conflict like this is zero, and we stand by that.
And we also mourn and grieve and express our deepest condolences to all those family members and loved ones and friends of those who were tragically killed in — in today’s explosion.
Now, tomorrow, obviously, we will — the trip will be confined to Tel Aviv. So, let me just give you just a quick rundown of what he’ll be doing tomorrow.
He will — first thing he’ll do is meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu in a very small restricted bilateral meeting. Then he’ll have a chance to broaden that out, and his team will be able to meet with the Israeli war cabinet.
After that, he will have a chance to meet with some of the Israeli first responders, all those who are bravely putting themselves in harm’s way in response to these — the Hamas attacks and thank them for all their bravery and — and the work that they’re doing.
He will also have a chance after that to meet with some of the families. It’ll be some of the families of those who have lost loved ones in Israel and some of the families who have — who still don’t know the fate of their loved ones. And, in fact, some of the family members we expect will also be family members of hostages that we know Hamas has taken.
Q American families, or —
MR. KIRBY: It’s unclear right now.
MR. KIRBY: But family members of those that — that were taken hostage. I don’t have the list of names right now.
After that, he’ll have a chance to make remarks — public remarks. So, all — you’ll — you’ll see that for yourself.
And then he also will have a chance to — to have a — a chance to — to speak directly with President Herzog, too. There’ll be a short conversation that he’ll get — he’ll get with President Herzog.
When he talks to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to the war cabinet, he’s going to be doing a few things. One, he’s going to get a sense from the Israelis about the situation on the ground and, more critically, their objectives, their plans, their intentions in the days and weeks ahead. And he’ll be asking some tough questions. He’ll be asking them as a friend — as a true friend of Israel. But he will be asking some questions of them.
He’s also going to make it clear that we continue to want to see this conflict not widen, not expand, not deepen. And he’ll make that point very clearly. We do — we want to deter any actor, be it a state or a terrorist group, from widening and escalating. And, as you well know, he’s added additional military capability into the Eastern Medi- — Mediterranean, specifically, both naval and air forces, to make that — to send that strong signal.
He’ll also, of course, ask the Prime Minister and the war cabinet what they believe their need are from a security assistance perspective and make it clear that we will do everything we can to meet those needs.
Now, I don’t know what those needs are going to be. We’ll see what they have to say tomorrow. But, as you know, we’ve already delivered one package of security assistance; more will be on the way.
He will — he will address the humanitarian as- — humanitarian situation in Gaza, making it clear, as he has before, that we want to see humanitarian assistance flow in, and it’s not just a one-and-done. We want to see it be able to be sustained — food, water, obviously, electrical power, medicine — all the things that the — the people of Gaza are going to continue to need as this conflict continues to go on. So, he’ll make that case very, very clearly.
And then, obviously, he’ll — he’ll want to address the issue of the hostages with — with Israe- — Israeli counterparts, find out what they know, if we have any more dexterity in terms of any more knowledge about where they are, what condition they are, if they’re being moved, all that kind of thing. We want to get more information as we continue to try to work options to get those hostages out.
I will add that — and I meant to say this when I was back on humanitarian assistance — you probably know this, but Special Envoy Satterfield is now on the ground and working this problem very, very directly with both Israeli and Egyptian counterparts.
So, as I said, I think, earlier today in some of my media appearances, we’re optimistic that something will — that we’ll be able to get some humanitarian assistance in. A lot of work has been done. Secretary Blinken really pulled a lot of weight here in shuttle diplomacy over the last few days to try to get humanitarian assistance in.
And then, just lastly, on a schedule — another schedule note, I know we’re all — you’re all tracking that we’re not going to Amman, Jordan. We noted that President Mahmoud Abbas put out a very positive statement urging calm in the wake of the explosion at the hospital.
The President intends to speak with both — both President Mahmoud Abbas and President Sisi on the flight home. So, this would be, I guess, tomorrow night. And, of course, Karine’s team will provide you guys a readout of all that. But that — we expect those calls to happen on the way back.
Q Did he talk to — who did you say? I couldn’t hear you.
MR. KIRBY: He intends, on the way home, to speak to both President Sisi and President Mahmoud Abbas.
Q When you say that — when you say that the President is going to ask Netanyahu some tough questions, could you give us a sense of what those are? And is he going to ask him to delay the offensive at least until aid can get in there?
MR. KIRBY: This is not about directing operations for the Israeli Defense Forces. And — and by “tough questions,” I don’t mean menacing or — or in any way adversarial, just hard questions that a good friend of Israel would ask about, sort of, where they think they’re — where they think they’re going, what their — what their plans are going forward and, again, all in the spirit of a — of a true, deep friend of Israel.
Q So, in the statement that the President issued, he asked his national security team to get to the bottom of what happened with the Gaza hospital explosion. One, just what is that investigation? But, two, Israelis have said, “We didn’t do this; this was a misdirected rocket or missile.” Do you guys not believe the Isra- — Israelis?
MR. KIRBY: They have categorically denied that they were involved in that. So, I’ll let them speak to — to their statement on that.
I wouldn’t characterize this as an investigation, Aamer. He has directed the national security team to gather as much information and context as possible. We all want to know how this could have happened.
Q Are there any initial — are there any initial findings or belief from the U.S. about who was behind the attack on the —
MR. KIRBY: Not at this time.
Q How much of a setback to the goals of the trip is not having that second stop in Jordan, not having those face-to-face meetings?
MR. KIRBY: Well, look, the President was looking forward, clearly, to going to Amman and having a chance to sit down face to face with President Sisi and President Mahmoud Abbas, two key leaders here in this conflict between Israel and Hamas. But he was able to talk to — to them over the phone. And, as I said, he’ll have a chance on the way home to speak to them again. So, I mean, the — the conversations will continue.
But he also understood — I mean, the main reason that Abbas pulled out of the meeting in Jordan was because of three days of mourning, which is of course completely culturally understandable.
I mean, he absolutely had to go home, and we understand that. And without him there, certainly that — that made it more difficult to — to have the kind of discussions that we wanted to have in Amman.
But again, they’ll speak — they’ll speak again on the way home.
Q Are there any conversations or thinking about a possible trip somewhere else or trying to reschedule the Jordan leg? Or are you — or is it pretty sure at this point, right after Tel Aviv, he’ll return to the U.S.?
MR. KIRBY: No, there’s — there’s no plans to reschedule the Amman stop. The Amman stop was — was sort of built in as part of this — of this short trip to the region.
But again, he’ll have conversations with them again on the way home. And it’s not like these leaders don’t know each other and don’t have the — the ability and the opportunity to speak whenever the- — whenever needed.
Q How did you all learn that King Jor- — King Abdullah was canceling Amman altogether —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, there’s — I think —
Q — on the motorcade on the way out?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I think there’s been a little bit of a garble on that, Peter. I mean, actually, that decision not to go to Amman was made in a mutual way when the President spoke to the King earlier this afternoon.
They both agreed that now was not the time to try to throw this meeting on, particularly with, you know, President Abbas making it very clear, understandably so, that he wanted to return home for three days of mourning. So, it was a mutual decision.
Q And he talked — and he talked to both King Abdullah and Prime Minister Netanyahu from the White House before getting in the motorcade to leave?
MR. KIRBY: That’s correct.
Q How did the conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu go? What was the —
MR. KIRBY: I mean, it was — obviously, it was important for the President to hear directly from the Prime Minister in the wake of this explosion and to talk about the — the value — the continued value of making this trip.
Q Netanyahu told him he didn’t do it — that the Israelis didn’t do it on that call?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t go into the specifics of the conversation between the two gentlemen, but as — as you’ve all seen, the Israelis have categorically and very stridently denied that they had anything to do with it.
Q Did he give them the benefit of the doubt?
MR. KIRBY: I think we — we certainly recognize that they feel very strongly that — that this was not caused by them. And as I said, he has directed the national security team, Jake Sullivan and his team, to try to gather as much information as possible.
Q Just given how uncertain and volatile that situation is, was there any consideration given to canceling the entire trip until more is known about the hospital explosion?
MR. KIRBY: Well, that’s why — that’s why he got on the phone this afternoon and talked to all the leaders involved was to — so that — so that all of them could make a collective decision about the value of continuing the trip.
Q Kirby, you said that these leaders know each other and there’s not a concern about them being able to have — to continue this work by phone. But one of the reasons that the President is going to this — to the region, to Israel, is to be there in person and to get some of this work done. Officials in the U.S. government have said it’s really important for him to show up. He’s now only showing up for half of — half of this trip. Is the President disappointed? Is the President concerned? Is there some regret that this trip is not going on as planned?
MR. KIRBY: Of course, he would always prefer face-to-face diplomacy. That’s — that’s the President’s stock-in-trade. But he also understands, in the wake of this explosion at the hospital, that it’s not — it’s not the appropriate thing to do for — certainly for the leaders that are there. And he understands that and he respects — he respects their concerns.
But — and, again, I don’t want to convey that — you know, that he considers a phone call just as good. I mean, the reason he wanted to come was to sit down face to face with all of them. But in the — in the event that that’s not possible now, he is certainly are going to stay telephonically in touch with them.
Q Why not just put it off for three days?
Q By not having the Amman stop, how does that complicate flowing the humanitarian assistance into Gaza?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I think you’ll hear more from the President on this tomorrow. Secretary Blinken has really done a lot of hard work in the region and — to try to — to get humanitarian assistance flowing in. I think you’ll hear more from the President on this, as I said, tomorrow. We feel optimistic that — that that kind of assistance will — will start to flow.
Q Are you expecting —
Q Is Egypt — is Egypt going to let the — let the supplies in?
MR. KIRBY: I think I’m just going to leave it at, you know, a lot of work has been done, and we feel optimistic that we can get there. It’s really, really important, Steve, that that assistance gets in as soon as possible and that it can be sustained.
Q On U.S. military force, you talked about the strike carrier groups that have been sent to the Middle East in the deterrence efforts. How concerned is the administration that military force could eventually be needed?
MR. KIRBY: So, it’s important to remember that the carrier strike group that’s in the Eastern Med has been extended now. You saw Secretary Austin extended it. We’ve got another one coming from Norfolk. It’ll take a little bit of time before she gets there. And he’s added aircraft squadrons as well to the mix in the Mediterranean.
They’re all there to send a strong signal of deterrence. That is the purpose: to make it clear to any would-be actor, any would-be nation, state, or terrorist group that wants to — are thinking about widening conflict that they shouldn’t do that.
There are no plans or intentions to put U.S. boots on the group in combat in Israel. But as we’ve also said, we have significant national security interests in the region. Those national security interests have not changed. As a matter of fact, they are more important perhaps now than they have been in the recent past. And those forces will be there to demonstrate a sincere capability of protecting and defending those national interests if need be.
Q It sounds like —
Q What would trigger the use of military force if you needed to defend those interests?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I think that’s a great hypothetical. I’m not going to get into it. We never talk about future military operations, and I simply wouldn’t do that. They are there to send a deterrence signal. There is more than enough capability to de- — protect and defend our national security interests if it comes to that.
Q Was the decision to go and to make this trip any way a unanimous one, or was there a debate? Was there a difference of opinion —
MR. KIRBY: With whom?
Q Among the President’s team.
MR. KIRBY: No, I think everybody agreed that this was the right time to go, especially coming — I mean, the trip was very much informed by Secretary Blinken’s and Secretary Austin’s visit, quite frankly — very much informed by their experience on the ground and conversations that they had.
And, I mean, the whole team gathered together to discuss the merits of going, and it was — you know, it was a — again, I won’t speak for everybody in the room, but — but there was a consensus, clearly, that it was important for the President to go and now is exactly the right time to do it.
Q Was there still a consensus today in rethinking it, or there was — there was a consensus when the decision was made originally?
MR. KIRBY: No, after — you know, after the — after the conversations with the — with the players this afternoon, given the concerns, obviously, that President Abbas had about the three days of mourning, I think there was a general feeling after his phone conversations this afternoon that — that not going to Amman was the right thing to do.
Q Are you saying —
Q In regards to security going into it, what — regardless of who did the hospital — regardless of who was responsible for the hospital, something really extraordinary just happened, and the President is going right in there 12 hours later. Is that a c- — a concern in terms of security? Is that to change our thinking about his presence there or how it’s — how it’s —
MR. KIRBY: We always take the President’s security very, very seriously. And — and there’s a — a highly professional team in the Secret Service and in the State Department that — that takes a look at all those parameters.
We wouldn’t be making this trip if we didn’t believe that we could do this in a safe and efficient manner for the President.
Q Are you saying that there will be deliverables that maybe have been secured by the Secretary of State and you —
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to get ahead of anything. I’m — what I’m telling you is that Secretary Blinken did an awful lot of great work this week seeing if we could — as he said it himself, that we’re close to a framework here in terms of getting the humanitarian assistance in. And — and we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to latch down that framework and get that aid in.
Q Is there a timeline for getting that started?
MR. KIRBY: I think — I don’t want to get ahead of where we are right now.
Obviously, we all believe strongly that the humanitarian assistance needs to flow as soon as possible. I mean, there are people in real need in Gaza. And we want to make sure that they get the food, water, medicine, electrical power that they desperately need. Because, I mean, it is a desperate need.
So, “as soon as possible” is what we’re — what we’re working on.
But, you know, how that — what that framework is actually going to be and how — and what the milestones are going to be, I just don’t think we’re in a position right now to speak to.
Q John, when — when the President met with Jewish leaders last week, he really stressed the importance of Israel to operate under the rules of war. Thus far, does he believe Israel has operated under the rules of war?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t think we’re going to react in near real time, Aamer, to every single event that happens on the battlefield. It’s a very dynamic situation, literally changing by the hour. And it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to react again, you know, to initial reports one way or the other.
Q A week’s worth of actions, though.
MR. KIRBY: Look, we’re just not going to — we’re not going to get into the business of reacting, again, as I said, in near real time.
We’re going to — as we have from the beginning — and I suspect you’ll hear this again tomorrow — we’re going to continue to talk to the Israelis about the — the absolute need to protect innocent civilian life and to observe the laws of war. And that is what separates Israel and the United States from Hamas, which is a terrorist organization that abides by no law.
So, we’re — we’re going to have to continue — we will continue to have those conversations.
Q Why not just push this trip back three days until after the period of mourning is over?
MR. KIRBY: There is still a pretty robust agenda of things to get done in Tel Aviv, as I just went through.
MR. KIRBY: Plenty of important meetings. He wants to have these discussions directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the war cabinet. He’s looking forward to having an opportunity to thank the first responders. He obviously feels it’s important, as is his normal desire, to talk to family members who are suffering and anxious and worried and — and grieving. I mean, all these are important things to do.
So, even though the Amman portion isn’t going to happen, again, for perfectly understandable reasons, that doesn’t negate the reason for going.
And, again, to my answer to Peter, this decision was very much informed by Secretary Austin’s visit, Secretary Blinken’s shuttle diplomacy over the last few days, all of which helped convince the President that now is exactly the right time to go.
Q Without telling us the timeline, are the Israelis keeping the White House informed on the timeline for the invasion of the Gaza Strip?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I will not talk about — I don’t — I don’t talk about U.S. potential operations. I’m certainly not going to talk about —
Q If you’re read — if you’re read in?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t speak for the Israelis and what they’re planning and what their — what their intentions are.
Q Are they refusing to share their timeline?
MR. KIRBY: I’m — I’m not going to — I’m not going to get into the private conversations that we’re having with Israeli leaders. That — that wouldn’t be appropriate. These are their military operations, and they have to make those decisions and speak to them for themselves.
Q If you could dive further into — following on JJ’s questions —
MR. KIRBY: I mean, as I said in the topper — and he certainly is coming tomorrow with the — desiring to ask questions about their — as a friend, as to intentions about — ask questions about their intentions and their plans.
Q Will he repeat his belief that he thinks it’s a — it would be a mistake to occupy Gaza to Netanyahu?
MR. KIRBY: I think — I think you’ll hear from the President after — after his meetings. And we should just leave it at that.
Q Should we expect comments from —
Q Does he expect to make any progress on securing the release of the Americans on this trip?
MR. KIRBY: We think they should be released now. We are working, literally, by the hour to try to find a way to get them back home with their families.
Obviously, we have what we know is a small number of Americans are in this hostage pool, but there are many, many others from different countries, as well as, of course, Israel. Hamas should release them all now.
And we are in active discussions. And as I said in my opening statement, the President will have discussions with Israeli counterparts about what they know tomorrow on the ground.
Q What’s your numbers on the American casualties and missing at this point?
MR. KIRBY: From what — I think — well, Karine, I think, topped that. There’s 31 Americans that have been killed.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
MR. KIRBY: And the number of unaccounted for is at 13 right now.
Q What sort of thinking is going on about Gaza refugees and whether some should go to the United States?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any update for you on refugee resettlement. Right now, Steve, the focus is on getting humanitarian assistance in and trying to work on some measure of safe passage out.
Q Is there any contingency planning for the U.S. forces that are in the area to go in and get the American hostages?
MR. KIRBY: You know what, the l- — the less said, the better when it comes to how we’re trying to get hostages home. I think you can all understand that it’s imperative that we don’t publicly detail too much of our thinking, lest those comments actually make it harder to — to effect that outcome.
Q Do you have any update on the status of negotiations with Egypt over the opening of the Rafah gate or — or just their role in sort of the ongoing — their — their ongoing role in — in humanitarian or hostage release?
Israel [Egypt] is the critical player here, obviously, because they control that side of the Rafah gate.
MR. KIRBY: Did I say “Israel”? I meant E- — Egypt, sorry. Egypt: critical player here. Please correct that in the transcript.
Well, both — both countries are critical, actually. But — but, yes, Egypt has a critical role to play. We are in — and Secretary Blinken had many conversations with his Egyptian counterparts about this over the past week or so. The President has — has also, in his conversations with President Sisi, talked about this.
So, we’ll — we know they — they have a critical role to play in opening up that gate and allowing humanitarian aid in. And, again, I think, based on the conversations we’ve had, we’re optimistic that — that we’re getting close to a framework for making that happen.
Q And Blinken had a seven-and-a-half-hour meeting with Israelis during his visit to Tel Aviv, and there was a signal that there secured some humanitarian package in aid. We haven’t seen a lot of detail. Should we expect to receive more details about what that exactly looks like in the coming hour?
MR. KIRBY: Let’s — they’ll be — that’ll be a main part of the agenda tomorrow. And I just — I don’t want to get ahead of where — where things are.
Q The — the administration and Karine and you had said that you’d be sending up a supplemental aid package request to the Congress this week. Is there anything that you can tell us about it?
Obviously, I know you’re going to talk to the Prime Minister about what Israel needs. But in terms of the ask for Ur- — Ukraine and the size or length of that funding —
MR. KIRBY: We still anticipate being able to make a supplemental request to Congress this week. I’m not going to get ahead. I think you can understand that we’re not going to do that. We’re in active conversations with Congress about what that can look like.
But, clearly, we believe that support to Ukraine and support to Israel remain important to our own national security interests, and we’re going to continue to have an active conversation with Congress about securing supplemental funding because both of it is needed.
Look, we have appropriations to help Ukraine for a little while longer. We have existing authorities and appropriations to help Israel for a little while longer. But by dint of the fact that neither of these conflicts show any sign of coming to closure anytime soon, we are absolutely going to need supplemental funding and support from Congress.
Q You’re open to Taiwan money and border money being part of that?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going get ahead of where we are.
Q We’re seeing some numbers out there, John, for the —
MR. KIRBY: Are you?
Q Yeah. (Laughs.)
MR. KIRBY: Oh, my goodness. (Laughter.)
No, I’m not going to confirm any numbers.
Q Triple-digit numbers.
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to confirm any numbers.
Q John, both Egypt and Jordan’s economies have been faltering long before the Hamas attack. Moody’s, I think, just in the last few days has downgraded Egypt’s ra- — rating even further. As the future doesn’t really look good in the light of this for both of their economies, is there any sort of talk in place, any discussion within the administration about trying to bolster both of their economies?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have anything — I don’t have anything really to — to add to that. I mean, no, I’m — not that I’m — not that I’m aware of.
Q Thank you.
MR. KIRBY: Okay. You guys good?
MR. KIRBY: I’ll let you go at Karine now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can’t imagine what else you guys —
Q Well, do have any comment on what’s going on on the Hill with the struggle to get —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q — Jim Jordan —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — thank you, Admiral.
So, we’ve been very clear about — about the Speaker’s race. We — the President has said he doesn’t have a vote in any of this. As you know, the House is majority — the majority belongs to the Republicans. It is their — it is their duty, their process. And we’re just not going to get involved in it.
But we have been very clear that there’s a lot of business to get done for the American people, and they need to get their House in order. They need to stop the chaos and get to work and do their basic duty, which is, you know, deliver for the American people.
So, we’re just not going to comment. We’re going to let the process go forward.
Q Karine, the President often talks about this larger battle between democracy and autocracy, and proving to not only American citizens but to other world leaders and people around the world that in order to, in his words, beat back autocracies, you have to prove democracy can work. There is not a Speaker of the House, preventing legislation from being taken up.
Is the President — and not speaking specifically about who he supports or the process but just broadly, does the Pres- — is the President concerned that the lack of a functioning House is a detriment to his larger argument about proving democracy can work?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I’ve said this before in the briefing room: It does not look good that we’re seeing chaos in Congress — in the House, specifically — by Republicans. It doesn’t. It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t help. And — and so, that’s why we keep saying that Republicans in the House need to, you know — and I’ve called it, you know, their “shambolic behavior” — they need to get their selves in order.
We have not seen a conference like this — a Republican Conference be so chaotic — I don’t think — at least not in my lifetime. And — and we believe that the President wants to continue to deliver for the American people. And you’ve seen the last — the last two, three weeks — right? — when we — when we thought there was going to be — when we thought there was going to be a shutdown, you saw the President doing something every day to deliver for the American people.
That’s not going to stop him. Right? That’s not going to stop him to get to work and to make sure that we’re meeting the needs that the Americans need.
But — but to your — to your point, yeah, it does not look good. It is a problem. And that’s why we’re going to continue to say they need to get their conference in order and select their leader. We do not have a vote in this. And they need to get to work.
Q Is there any point the President would get involved in these conversations or negotiations, especially as we might get closer to another government shut- — potential government shutdown?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’ve been very clear: This is for them to fix. They have the majority in the House. When I say “they,” Republicans — they have the majority in the House. It is for them to fix. They have to select who the Speaker is going to be, and they have to move with their process, and that is for them to speak.
Look, as it relates to — you know, as it relates to a potential shutdown, where we’re going to be, you know, by November 17th, you know, we have continued to have conversations with members of Congress. You — you’ve heard from the OMB director. You know our Office of Leg Affairs have had constant conversations with them.
The President did a budget deal — a deal with them when the deficit was being spoken about back in May and June. We came to the table. We had a bipar- — there was a bipartisan piece of legislation that was signed and that two thirds of the Hou- — House Republicans voted for. So, the deal was made. They need to get to work and get this done on behalf of the American people.
Q I’ll just ask one more. You know, Hezbollah has threatened this rain of rockets on Wednesday as the President will be arriving. So, what are — what’s the mood of the — the White House staff and the people around him going into this situation? And has — have those threats registered at all with the President or staff?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, honestly, I have not had direct conversations with anybody on the staff, not even the President.
What I can say is: This trip that we’re making is important. It’s historical, obviously, because of the moment that we in — we’re in and because of what’s happening in the region. And so, the President felt it was — it was critical to go to — to Israel.
We wanted to go to Jordan. Obviously, the Admiral just explained how we got to not going there. And there’s going to be critical, important conversations as it relates to humanitarian aid, as it relates to the hostages and how that’s a top priority.
And so, there will be many topics and agendas that’s going to be discussed. Look, you know, of course these types of trips have risks, right? And so, we understand that, but there’s also — the President understands how important it is to have these diplomatic conversations to get things done.
You heard the Admiral talk about these types of conversations are also important for our own national security. And it is a time that we want to show that we are there for our allies in Israel and the people of Israel at this time.
And so, there will be — the President is going to give remarks tomorrow. He’ll share a lot more. You’ll hear directly from him on what his thoughts are and why he — why he is in the region and what he wants to accomplish. I’m certainly not going to get ahead of him.
THE WHITE HOUSE, BRIEFING ROOM – PRESIDENTIAL ACTIONS
October 17, 2023
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