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White House. Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

(A costumed Easter Bunny approaches the podium.)

Q    Awww!

Q    Happy Easter!

(The Easter Bunny gestures to take questions from the press.)

Q    How has Easter been for you this year?

Q    Are you the President of the United States?

(The Easter Bunny shakes its head.)

Q    Are you the Vice President of the United States?

(The Easter Bunny shakes its head.)

Q    Are you a senior White House official?

(The Easter Bunny shrugs.)

Q    Bring any chocolate for us?

Q    Are you John Kirby?  (Laughter.)

(Ms. Jean-Pierre enters the Briefing Room.)


Q    How was the Easter Egg Roll today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  How was —

Q    How was the Roll?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think — thumbs up?

(The Easter Bunny makes a thumbs up gesture.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thumbs up.  Two thumbs up from the bunny.

All right.  Thank you.

(The Easter Bunny departs the Briefing Room.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  Happy Easter.

Q    Are you someone who works here at the White House?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, hello, everybody.  Happy Easter Monday.

So, I have something at the top for all of you, and I think you’ll be really interested in this.  So, President Biden is scheduled to announce he is revoking the Hatch Act.  So, as a gift to all of you — so, now I can actually take all your questions about 2024.  (Laughter.)

Q    Good one.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No?  I thought you would love that.

Q    No.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Okay.  April Fools.  April Fools.  April Fools.  It is April 1st.

Q    That’s a pretty good one.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — thank you.  I thought was pretty —


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I thought it was pretty slick of me.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

All right.  With all — in all seriousness, a couple things at the top.

So, First Lady Jill Biden — Dr. Biden — a teacher for more than 30 years, is continuing her theme of “EGGucation” for today’s White House Easter Egg Roll, transforming the South Lawn and Ellipse into a school community full of fun educational activities for children of all ages to enjoy. 

In total, approximately 40,000 people will take part in this year’s event — 40,000 people.

We do want to say a special thank you to the American Egg Board and America’s egg farmers for continuing its more than 45-year history of support for the event and for its donation of 64,000 eggs used on the South Lawn and another 64,000 donated to the Capital Area Food Bank to match the eggs used for the Roll.

And I have some news for you at the top.  I know many of you were asking this question over the weekend.  President Biden will travel to Baltimore on Friday to visit the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, meet with state and local officials, and get on-the-ground — an on-the-ground look at federal response efforts.

The President is continuing to lead a whole-of-government approach to the collapse. 

President Biden and his team are working with Governor Moore, the congressional delegation, Mayor Scott, and numerous state and local ol- — officials to reopen the port, rebuild the bridge, and support the people of Baltimore. 

Through the unified command, the U.S. Coast Guard is coordinating a complex and highly coordinated effort to remove the wreckage, with resources from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Maryland, and others. 

Crane barges are on the scene, supporting the mission. In addition, the Chesapeake 1000, the largest heavy-lift crane barge on the East Coast, which is nearly 200 feet long and can lift 1,000 tons, arrived Thursday night.  And on Saturday, the unified command successfully removed the first piece of wreckage.

Last week, within hours of receiving the request, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the immediate availability of $60 million in “quick release” Emergency Relief funds for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

We’re also doing everything that we can to help address economic impacts. 

On Saturday, the Small Business Administration quickly approved a disaster declaration and will provide low-interest disaster loans to eligible affected business — businesses. Today, the SBA is launching two Business Recovery Centers in Baltimore County.  These centers will support impacted business owners in com- — in completing their disaster loan applications.

The Department of Labor is working with local and state officials to determine how to assist workers out of — out of work due to closure of the port.  Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su is in Baltimore today meeting with stakeholders. 

And twice last week, the White House convened a meeting for the Biden-Harris administration Supply Chain Disruptors [Disruptions] Task Force to discuss potential impacts on regional and national supply chains.

As the President said within hours of the collapse, this administration will be with the people of Baltimore every step of the way.  We are with you, Baltimore, and we will be there until — until we get this done.

Q    Karine, is he viewing by air, land, and sea, like flying by Air Force One?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We will — we will have more — we will have more information as we get closer to — to Friday.  I think the important thing is the President has said we just — he was going to go as soon as possible.  Now he’s — he is going to go on Friday.  We certainly will have more information to share.  I just don’t have any details at this time.

Go ahead, Will.

Q    Thank you.  So, the criticism over the Transgender Day of Visibility.  The White House said that the President wouldn’t abuse his faith for political purposes.  Does the President think that’s what Republicans are doing on this issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, just a couple of things. And really, so surprised by the misinformation that’s been out there around this, and I want to be very clear.

Every year, for the past several years, on March 31st, Transgen- — Transgender Day of Visibility is marked.  And as we know — for folks who understand the calendar and how it works, Easter falls on different Sundays — right? — every year.

And this year, it happened to coincide with Trans- — Transgender Visibility Day.  And so, that is the simple fact.  That is what has happened.  That is where we are.

And I do want to say a couple of things, because I think it’s important here.  As you just stated in your question, what we’ve been hearing out there — a lot of misinformation done on purpose. 

And as a Christian who celebrates Easter with family, President Biden stands for bringing people together and upholding the dignity and freedoms of every American.

Now, sadly — and it’s not surprising, right?  It is actually unsurprising that politicians are seeking to divide and weaken our country with cruel, hateful, and dishonest rhetoric.  It is dishonest what we have heard the past 24 hours.  It is untrue what we heard over the weekend.

And, you know, we — we were, at first — I want to be very clear — confused on their coverage.  We’re grateful that Fox agrees with President Biden about the importance of recognizing Trans Day of Visibility.

And I’ll just quote something that Fox said back in 2021.  They tweeted this.  “Trans Day of visibility is dedicated to celebrating transgender people.  To all the transgender men, women, and non-bari- — binary folk, we see you and stand with you.”

President Biden will never abuse his faith or — for political purposes or for profit.  That is not what this administration is about.  That is not what being a leader is about.

And this misinformation out there is just — it’s just — it’s bad.  And it is dividing — it is caused to divide us.

And I want to say one more quote.  This is what Politico covered.  “Every year” — and I said this at the top of my answer — “Transgender Day of Visibility is on March 31st.”  This year, March 31st just so happens to be also Easter, the date of which changes every year.  That’s how I started out.  And that’s how I’ll end.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Why are the U.S. and Israelis meeting virtually today instead of having that in-person meeting on Rafah?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, I can confirm that there is a virtual mee- — meeting happening today with both U.S. officials, Israeli officials to discuss Rafah — the situation in Rafah and, obviously, the next steps that we have been hearing that the Israeli government wants to take. 

This is — this is following the discussions that we — we all talked about last week with the Israeli Minister of Defense and his delegation.  And this conversation today is being led by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Look, I think it’s important to note that we were rea- — we were able to reschedule this on Friday.  And we wanted to move very quickly on this.  And, today, the meeting is happening virtually, because we understand — and, obviously, you all understand — how important it is to have this conversation.

We have been very clear about our concerns about a military operation into Rafah.  We know that there are more than a million Palestinians who are in Rafah right now, who moved from the north to go into Rafah. 

And so, we want to make sure, if there is going to be a military operation — we also know that there are Hamas operators in Rafah as well — but if they are going to move forward with a military operation, we have to have this conversation.  We have to understand how they’re going to move forward.

We — and I’ll say one more thing.  When Jake Sullivan was here at the podium not too long ago, he believed and he said there are alterniv- — alternative ways of doing this –alternative ways of going after Hamas. 

And so, they’re going to have the discussion.  I think it’s important that it happen as quickly as — as it did, even though it’s virtual.  And we’ll certainly have more to share.

Q    Are there still in-person meetings planned and, if so, when this week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We — we will have more to share on the next steps.  We’re going to have a readout of this conversation.  But I think — rescheduled on Friday.  Today, Monday, we’re having a conversation.  We have laid out our concerns about this for some time.  And I think it’s important that both sides are having this discussion. 

Q    And just lastly, Speaker Johnson said there will be a vote on Ukraine soon when the House comes back from recess.  But he said it would include some “innovations,” like making some portion of it a loan.  If that’s the only way to get Ukraine aid passed, would the President sign that kind of bill?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into hypoth- — hypotheticals here. 

We’ve been very clear.  We believe if the Speaker were to put the national security supplemental on the floor — obviously, it includes Ukraine, humanitarian aid, Israel, the Indo-Pacific — we believe and it is fact that it would get majority bipartisan support on — on the floor in the House. 

We saw, 70 to 29, it passed out of the Senate — bipartisan support — overwhelming bipartisan support.  We believe it would get overwhelming bipartisan support if he would put it on the floor.  That’s all he needs to do. 

And so, that’s what we believe the — the Speaker — how it should be moved forward.  I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals.

Go ahead.

Q    Do you expect specific decisions to come out of the Rafah meeting today, Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get ahead of the meeting.  We will have a readout of — of that meeting.  I’m just not going to — I’m not going to get ahead of it.

Q    And then, secondly, the — the Israelis bombed Iran’s consulate building in Damascus today.  It apparently killed an Iranian military commander.  Did you know about this in advance?  Are you concerned this is an escalation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m aware of the reports.  Our team is looking into it.  So, I’m not going to get ahead of anything just yet.  But, obviously, we’re aware of the reports, and our team is looking into it.  I’m just not going to go beyond that. 

Q    And then, lastly, if I could, do you have an update on how to pay for the new bridge?  Have you — have you had conversations with House Republicans about this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as — as I mentioned at the top, we — Department of Transportation was able to release $16- — $60 million, which, obviously, is going to be really important — a kind of a down payment, if you will, on getting — on dealing on — on getting that bridge rebuilt. 

We’re going to have continued conversation with the state of Maryland to get a sense of how much this is going to cost.  And we have said we’re going to certainly continue to talk to Congress to get some assistance here. 

The President has been very clear.  He’s going to be there for the people of Baltimore.  This is a whole-of-government approach, and we are going to do everything that we can to make sure that that bridge gets back up.  I don’t have anything further to share on congressional conversation.  But that’s a commitment that the President has made.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  “60 Minutes” reported last night on a connection between anomalous health incidents and a unit of the Russian military intelligence service.  What’s the White House’s reaction to that reporting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be really careful here.  The intelligence community has not concluded that.  Obviously, there was an assessment that intelligence community made.  And so, I would have to refer you to the — to ODNI on their assessment.  But that particular piece about Russia — I know that they had not concluded that.

Q    Right.  And I know that the — the intelligence community has said that it’s — they still think it’s un- — not likely that a foreign power is responsible.  How can the administration continue to believe that when you have so many credible U.S. officials who have experienced this saying otherwise?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, this is an intel- — intelligence community assessment.  ODNI can speak specifically on how they got to that assessment, how they got to that conclusion.  So, I want to be super mindful. 

What I can speak to is what we have done since 2023 since the intelligence committee assessment.  And we have taken this very seriously.  The President takes U.S. personnel — making sure that they are protected is the most important. 

A couple of steps that we took: We prioritized investigations into the cause of AH- — AHIs and to examine reports thoroughly. 

Now, this is something that the President directed the departments in the federal government — obviously, across the federal government — to do: ensure that U.S. government personnel and their families who report AHIs receive the support and timely access to medical care that they need and — and to take reports of AH- — AHIs seriously and — and threat to personnel with respect and compassion. 

So, we have taken some actions that will — that — that the President directed his agencies across the federal government.

At — any specifics to the intelligence assessment, I would have to refer you to ODNI.

Q    And the Pentagon confirmed another aspect of “60 Minutes” reporting today, that a Department of Defense official who was in Vilnius for the NATO Summit last year also experienced what appears to be AHI.  Can you give us any update on that person’s condition?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any update.  I’m very careful about speaking to any personnel-specific case.  So, I can’t — I don’t want to do that from here.  I would have to refer you on Department of Defense, since that came from the Department of Defense. 

Q    Bottom line: Are U.S. officials who are working on issues related to Russia — particularly overseas — are they safe?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we are going to continue to emphasize the importance of prioritizing — right? — making sure that personnel are, you know, protected.  And we are going to do everything that we can.  This is something that this President believes is important. 

And so, look, we’re going to get to the — we’re going to continue to do a comprehensive examine — examination of the effects here that we’re seeing and the potential causes of AHI.  That’s something that we’re going to continue to look into. 

And, look, we take this very seriously.  We take this very serious.  This is why we have taken an all-of-government approach and — and have directed agencies to do the three things that I listed out.  And, you know, it — this is — this is important.  We see this as a — as — as a important issue that we want to — to, certainly, prioritize.  And that’s what we have been doing since 2023. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Is the President hosting an iftar dinner tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything to confirm here.  As you know, very early on this month, we put out a statement marking the first day of Ramadan.  This is March, obviously, we did that. 

The President wishes all who observe Ramadan a safe, healthy, and blessed month.  In his statement, he spoke to the appalling resurgence of hate and violence towards Muslim Americans.  He also spoke to the need to secure a ceasefire as part of a hostage deal in our efforts to signif- — significantly increase humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

And that’s something that you’ve heard us talk about.  You’ve heard us actually take actions in the past couple of weeks, whether it’s the pier, whether it’s the plane drop and working with Israel, obviously, to get that — increase the humanitarian aid.  And so, we’re going to continue to do that. 

We don’t have — I don’t have anything to — to share with you at this moment. 

Q    But if he does host an iftar dinner, would you announce that in advance the way you do for Hanukkah gatherings —


Q    — or other kinds of gatherings?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just don’t have anything to share on — on an event com- — an upcoming event at this time.  I just don’t have anything to share.

Go ahead.

Q    On LNG and Ukraine aid.  Can you say, is the President open to suspending the pause on — the administration’s pause on — on new LNG approvals in exchange for Ukraine aid?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as we said repeatedly, the House needs to pass the bipartisan national security supplemental.  I’ve been saying that.  It was the first thing I said when I came to the podium — one of the first things.  And we want to see that as soon as possible.  We know it would get bipartisan support overwhelmingly if it were to go to the floor of the House.  That’s what we want to see. 

As I stated, it’s already passed the Senate 70-29.  So, it’s important to move forward. 

And we’ve also talked about — Jake Sullivan has talked about, my National Security Council colleague has talked about this as well — is that we — or Ukraine can’t afford any more delays.  We have seen what’s been happening the past several weeks, the past several months in Ukraine.  They are losing ground on the battlefield. 

Q    So, are you saying it’s still on the table?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, what I’m saying is that we have to pass the bipartisan national security supplemental.  That’s what we want to see.  If we want to —

Q    All right.  So, you can’t say if Biden is — is willing to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We — look —

Q    — make that exchange?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This is — this is where we are at this moment in time.  We want to make sure that national security supplemental is moved forward.  It could get bipartisan support.  We know it will.  We know it would get overwhelming support if they put it on the floor, right?

And Congress’s inaction has led to Ukraine losing footing in the battlefield.  That’s what we’ve seen.  That’s what we’ve seen.  And so, Congress needs to act.  It is — in order to actually deal with this, in order to give Ukraine — the Ukrainians what they need, the brave Ukrainians on the ground what they need —

Q    So, can you say if the President is open to (inaudible) with the Speaker?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just — I’m just not going to negotiate from the podium.  That’s what we — we’ve always been very clear from that — from here.  I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. 

We know what needs to be done.  And what needs to be done is to put that national security supplemental — passed out of the Senate in a bipartisan fashion, 70 to 29 — we believe it can get passed overwhelmingly in a bipartisan fashion in the House.  I just want to be mindful and not get into hypotheticals from here.

Go ahead.

Q    On the reporting about the health incidents.  Because a lot of these concerns and incidents are happening on the President’s and Vice President’s trip, do you know if the President or Vice President have met with anyone who has been impacted by any of these health concerns?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, it’s a good question.  I don’t have — I don’t have any readout or any conversations to — to say or to speak to at this time. 

Q    And then, these officials are saying they’re speaking out because they don’t agree with the ODNI assessment.  Is the President going to, you know, implore Director Haines to look at these claims more closely?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, there was a nat- — an assessment that was done, as you just stated in your — in your statement — in your question to me.  I would have to — we trust our — our intelligence community, right?  And they put out an assessment.  So, I would have to refer you to ODNI.  I can’t get into any sp- — more specifics than that. 

Q    So, the President is standing by that assessment and —


Q    — that’s the end of the road?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He is standing by the assessment.  I would have to refer you to ODNI. 

Go ahead, April.

Q    Karine, I have two different subjects related to one topic.  When it comes to the Baltimore port, is the President or Democrat- — or are you hearing from Democrats, particularly in this building, that there’s a concern that Republicans aren’t moving in an expeditious fashion?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I can’t — I can’t speak to that right now.  What I can speak to: what the President has been doing.  He has said he’s going to use a whole-of-government approach.  You heard the Department of Transportation — you heard me at the top say that $60 million has been provided to get that bridge done. 

And, look, we’re going to do everything that we can to get the port open as soon as possible, obviously, to build that bridge as — as soon as possible.  The timeline is going to be complicated.  It is a complicated scenario.  So, I don’t have a timeline on that. 

Look, we’re going to have conversations with congressional members.  We’re going to, certainly, talk to them on what else is needed, if there is additional funding — there is going to be additional funding needed to get this done. 

I’m not going to go into — into specifics at this time. 

Q    Are Republicans invited to the White House this week or next week to talk about this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any schedule about any congressional conversations here happening at the White House.  But I would say the — you know, our — our Leg Affairs — White House Leg Affairs has regular communication with — with congressional members.  Department of Transportation, as well, has regular communication with congressional members.  And so, that’s going to continue. 

I just don’t have a — a formal — a formal meeting to be happening here —

Q    And the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — on this particular issue.

Q    And the next subject that’s related to this.  After all of us — the world watched how that cargo ship — that multi-hundred-ton barge ran into the pillar, is there a concern about assessing bridges that deal with these kind of things around the nation?  Has there been talk about that?  Because this was — yes, it was catastrophic, but this government seems to be very reactionary.  When something happens, it jumps on to try to fix it.  And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Which I think is a good thing.  I think, when something happens, the fact that this administration jumps on top of it and tries to make sure that we don’t forget the communities, we assist, and we get communities put back together — right? — the — the bridge is something that the Balti- — people of the — Baltimore are feeling very acutely.  And so, we’re going to, certainly, do everything that we can to get that bridge back up and to get the port open.

Look — but as you’re asking me about bridges and — and, certainly, infrastructure —

Q    Throughout the nation, that’s (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — but that’s why the bipartisan infrastructure legislation was so important.  Let’s not forget, that infrastructure law is now going to really deal with infrastructure in a generation.  It is something that is a — an investment in our infrastructure, not just bridges.  We’re talking about tunnels.  We’re talking about roads, right?  We’re talking about broadband, right?

These are incredibly important.  And creating jobs — creating good-paying union jobs.

And so, that is what the President has said he was going to do.  The last administration turned it into a joke.  It was Infrastructure Week every week, and he did absolutely nothing. 

And so, this administration was able to get a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law done.  And so, we are — we are proud to have been able to do that.  Obviously, it’s going to speak to the bridges. It’s going to speak to bridge- — to — to roads and tunnels.  And I think that’s important that that was able to get done within the President’s first term.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  International doctors has been describing horrific scene at the Shifa Hospital.  Three hundred bodies were found.  Some were tied up and executed, including doctors, women, and children.  Is the White House calling for an independent investigation?  And second, do you believe that Israel is in violation of international law?

And just on another topic.  The Israeli Knesset, the parliament, just passed a law banning international media from working in Israel.  You always call Israel as an ally that you share values with.  Is this a value that you share with?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple — you asked me two very important questions, and I want to get to — to them.

So, as it relates to — and I think you were speaking specifically — at least the reports that we’ve seen — is about Al Jazeer- — Jazeera, specifically.  But it doesn’t matter, whichever — right? — journalists more broadly.  But at — to those particular report, we’ve seen the reports, and, certainly, I’m going to refer to Israel for what they may or may not be considering.

But it — if it is true — if it is true, a move like this is concerning.  We believe in the freedom of the press.  It is critical.  It is critically important.  And the United States supports the critically important work journalists around the world do.  And so — and that includes those who are reporting in — in the conflict in Gaza.

So, we believe that work is important, the freedom of the press is important.  And if those reports are true, it is concerning to us.

And to your first question.  So, look, Hamas should not — should not be operating out of hospitals — we have said that — we’ve said that over and over again — and putting civilians at risk.  That’s what we’re seeing.  And we are concerned by how Hamas appears — they appear to have been able to reconstitute in a hospital so quickly.

So, we’ve always ma- — also made clear that we continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.  But — but as we’ve also said, we do not want firefights in a hospital where innocent people — people — helpless people, people seeking medical care are caught in the — in a crossfire.  We don’t want to see that.

We have urged Israel to take every step to avoid civilian casualties.  And this just points to how challenging Israel’s military operation is because Hamas has intentionally embedded themselves into — into civilian infrastructure, into these hospital.

And so — and so, we’ve been very clear.  As — as it relates to the footage, as it relates to the photos and recordings, we have not verified that photo- — footage.  We’re — we’re going to be reaching out to the Israeli government to get more information.

But obviously, if these reports are true, that is indeed deeply concerning.

Q    But this difference between the civilized world and uncivilized world is sticking to international law at the time of war. 

So, regardless, even if these people were Hamas, do you believe that under international law Israel has the right to execute people, even if Hamas, which you consider a terrorist organization — regardless, you can hold them to the same standard as a professional army that often the White House praise as a professional army, they know what they’re doing, and even sometimes you said, “I wish the U.S. Army behaved like the Israelis”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I hear your question, and I have said it is deeply concerning if it’s true.  We are reaching out to Israel government to get more information.  And that is also important to do.  We have to make sure that the- — this — what we’re hearing is verified — right? — that the footage is also verified.

But we’ve been very clear.  Like, this is — we also have to call out Hamas here.  They are operating out of hospitals — out of hospitals.  That’s what they’re doing.  They’re embedding themselves in civilian population.  This is what they’re doing.  And so, we have to be, also, very clear about that. 

And we have said we’ve urged Israel to take every step that they — to avoid civilian casualties.  So, we’re going to re- — we’re going to reach out to the Israeli government, get more information on that.  And it i- — if that is indeed the case, it is deeply concerning.  It is deeply concerning.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just kind of going back to the LNG pause for a minute.  In January, when the pause was announced, the President put out a statement, and he said, “This pause on new LNG approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time.”

Does the President still believe that that LNG pause is so necessary?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Nothing has changed.  Nothing has changed in our — in our — in our posture on LNG.

Go ahead.

Q    Great.  So —


Go ahead, Jon.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Back in 2007, there was another deadly bridge collapse.  It happened in Minnesota.  And days after, Congress reacted.  They passed the funding to replace that bridge.  Is the President disappointed that there isn’t that same sense of urgency as it relates to the Key Bridge in Baltimore?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, what I can speak to right now — in this time, in this moment — is the — what — what the President has promised: a whole-of-government approach here — response.  That’s what you’ve seen.

The Department of Transportation was able to provide $70- — $60 million.  Just last week, they made that announcement.  You heard me talk about that at the top.  And we will, of course — of course, we are going to work with Congress to ensure that we have the — the resources — right? — needed so that we can make sure that this is fully covered — the rebuilding of the bridge is fully cov- — covered.

I’m not going to go beyond — beyond that.  We’re going to have those conversations.  We’re going to make sure that we are there for the people of Baltimore.  That is the President’s promise.  He said that the federal government is going to fully pay for that.  And he’s going to stand by his word.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Also, on Baltimore.  The six victims of the collapse of the bridge were Latino — from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.  Is the President planning to meet with the families of the victims?  And more broadly, what the White House is doing to help these families that now are facing difficult decisions, for example, where to hold the funeral because some of the family members cannot leave to the home country, some others cannot come here.


Q    So, what are you doing about that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, going to give you more about what the President is going to be doing on Friday in the next upcoming days.  We’ll have more details to share to all of you.  And so, I’ll leave it there about what — what we’re going to be doing on that day.

As it relates to the family members, you may have heard Tom Perez, last week, met with a couple of the family members when he was in Baltimore.  He did a press conference and talked about that and laid that out.  So, certainly, we’ve been in touch with the family members.

I just want to be super careful.  And, you know, they are mourning at this time.  And so, just don’t want to go beyond that.

Q    Is the White House considering some kind of parole to let the people come and — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything beyond — beyond that.

Go ahead.

Q    Just a couple more on Baltimore.  You went into it a little bit at the top, but what does the President hope to get out of the visit on Friday?  Like, what does he want to see and what does he want to hear when he’s there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you know, sadly, he — he’s done these kind of — kind of visits.  Not — obviously, not this dramatic with a bridge before, but he has been there for communities when they’ve experienced a traumatic event like the people of Baltimore have. 

And I think it’s important for him for — for people to — for — for folks who are working on the ground, whether it’s the first responders who were there in the first couple of hours or the folks who are there now, to see from — from — to see the President, to hear from the Commander-in-Chief, to know that he appreciates the work that they’ve been doing around the clock, to also be there for the community. 

You know, we’ve seen Governor Moore, we’ve seen the mayor do everything that they can for the community in this time.  And so, the President wants to be there as well. 

He’s going to be — Governor Moore is going to be joining him.  I can share — share that with all of you.  And, certainly, we’ll have more beyond that. 

And so, I think it’s important for — when — when something like this — when something this traumatic — six people died, a community is affected by this bridge — to have the President be there. 

And so, we know that there’s a whole-of-government approach happening here — a response.  And — and so, the President is going to see for himself what happened, see for himself the work that’s being done.

I don’t want to get ahead of what that’s going to look like.  I know I was asked if he’s going to do it by air or land.  I just don’t have any details at this time.

Q    And sea.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And sea.

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  True.  And sea.

We’ll have more details to share if the family members are going to be there.  We’ll just have more details to share.  Obviously, he’ll be there with Governor Moore, and he will assess himself and see for himself and hear directly from — from the people who are on the ground doing the work.

Q    And Governor Moore and Mayor Scott were facing personal attacks in the wake of the bridge collapse last week.  When was the last time the President talked to them?  And did they talk about that?  What’s the White House response to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I think Governor Moore said it perfectly on Sunday: We do not have time for this foolishness.  We just don’t.  We don’t have time for this foolishness. 

And our focus is reopening the port, making sure that bridge gets rebuilt, making sure that we are there — we are there for the people of Baltimore. 

And so, I will add that these claims are baseless and they’re just wrong.  They’re just wrong.  And we’re not going to let these misinformation, disinformation — these horrible statements that are being made distract us from the work that the people of Baltimore want us to do. 

And so, we just have no time for — for any of this foolishness.  And that is, I think, the best way that could be said by — by the Gov- — Governor Moore, who said this yesterday. 

Q    Are you speaking of the words “DEI mayor”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Oh yeah.  Yeah.  I — I’m — I’m referring — I mean, Karen could speak to her question, but they’ve been under attack.  There was the “DEI” comment on the mayor.  There’s been other really misguided, misinformed, just awful — awful statements that have been made.  And those are wrong and those are baseless.  And we cannot be distracted here.

Q    Are they racist statements?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what I can say is they’re wrong and they’re baseless.  And I think that — that’s pretty — that goes pretty far, right?  And let’s not forget, six people — six people lost their lives.  Six people lost their lives.

Go ahead, Jared.

Q    As you have these conversations with Congress about the funding needed to reopen the port and — and reopen — rebuild the bridge, are there also conversations about any additional legislation that may be needed as it relates to, like, regulation or oversight?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — I’m not going to get into — I’m not going to get ahead of the funding conversations here that we’re having.  And I think that’s what is the focus here right now, is to make sure that we have the funding, that we get that bridge built, make sure that we open that port.  I think that’s really important. 

I just don’t want to get into — not going to get ahead.  As you know, there’s an investigation happening.  So, I don’t want to get ahead of that.

Go ahead.

Q    Does the President support the $20 minimum wage that’s going into effect for fast-food workers in California today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Let me look into that.  I have not seen that — that reporting. 

Obviously, the President believes that every worker should be paid, you know — you know, should be able to — to be — able to be paid to support their family. 

And we hear — you hear the President talk about making sure that, you know, folks are able to live in dignity — right? — and respect — have that dignity and respect to raise their family. 

You hear the President talk about his own experience growing up and how difficult it is to be — when you’re around that — when you’re around the kitchen table making those difficult decisions.

On this particular report, I just — I don’t want to speak — speak in — speak about it until I get more — more information.

Q    Okay.  And — but going back to the LNG export ban.  The Energy Secretary has said that that’s a temporary pause.  I’m wondering how long “temporary” is.  And if it is to the level that — that was read out earlier, you know, related to the climate crisis, are there plans to make it permanent?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the Department of Energy.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you so much.  Starting with Turkey, can you just tell us a little bit more about the Turkish President’s visit next month, what priorities the two presidents bring to this meeting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  We’ll have — we’ll have more to share as we get closer to that — to that date.  I don’t want to get ahead of, obviously, what’s actually going to happen in the meeting.  But certainly, we’ll have more to share.

Q    Cool.  Then I’ll move on to — a Chinese national was arrested for trespassing on a California naval base.  Does this speak to larger concerns that the White House has about possible Chinese spying, national security?  And what are you doing about this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we take those types of incidents very seriously.  I can’t speak to case — case by case, but, obviously, that’s something that we take very seriously.  We work with folks on the ground when we see those types of cases pop up.  But I just don’t — and I just don’t want to get too fur- — too — too far into it.

Q    And, finally, on Senegal.  The President and the Secretary of State congratulated the new President — the 44-year-old President.  This is leading to other societies in West Africa pushing for quicker elections, for a loosening of their entrenched leadership.  How does the White House see that?  And is that something that you’d support?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that last part — it relates to?  Say that last part.

Q    Sorry.  We’re seeing now that other countries — Mali, Burkina Faso, to name just two — their citizenry are now pushing for democratic transitions. 


Q    Is that something you guys support?  What are you doing to support that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think it’s important — right? — free and fair elections, democracy working at its best, in this — in this regard.  I think it’s incredibly important. 

I — that is — you know, that is something for each individual domestic country to decide on — on.  But I think it’s important to have free and fair elections, let the civilians — let the people decide who is going to represent them. 

I mean, that’s something that we have said multiple times on every election. 

Q    Will the President host his new Senegalese counterpart?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  I don’t have a call to readout or anything to speak to at this point. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Most of the border crossers accused of beating up Texas National Guardsmen in a riot last month were released on their own recognizance Sunday.  How does that make people in this country any safer?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I have to refer you to Department of Justice and DHS on that particular reporting.  I will say this: As the event unfolded, the Border Patrol was able to act quickly and get the situation under control and apprehend the migrants.  And we were grateful that the Border Patrol was able to do their job. 

Look, there is a challenge at the border.  Right?  Our immigration system has been broken for decades, before — even before this President became president, obviously, three year- — more than three years ago. 

And this President, a couple of months ago, worked with the Senate in a bipartisan fashion to get a negotiation done.  Right?  And what we saw is, from the last president — President Trump told Republicans in Congress not to move forward with this negotiation — this agreed negotiation, this agreed plan, this agreed proposal because it would help Joe Biden.  That’s what was reported by some of you. 

And we can actually deal with this.  We can actually deal with — with what we’re seeing.  And because they didn’t move forward — right? — because they didn’t move forward with this proposal, because of the last president and because they — they put politics inhea- — ahead of the American people, we are seeing chaos. 

And so, we want to get this done.  We did.  We worked with Congress to get this done, to deal with the challenges at the border.  President Trump got in the way.  And because President Trump got in the way, Republicans are now getting in the way. 

Q    So, does President Biden wish that Republicans in Congress would help him make a law that made it easier to deport people?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What the President wants to see is he wants congressional Republicans to pass, to move forward with a bipartisan border security agreement — a bipartisan border security agreement that was supported by the Border Patrol union, U.S. Chamber of Commerce — something that we don’t see nowadays.  And we were able to get that done.

What the President wants to see is that being passed.  He wants congressional Republicans to not put politics first, to put — majority of Americans want us to deal with this issue.  That’s what the President wants to see.

Q    Totally different topic.  How worried do Americans need to be about squatters?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  About squatters?

Q    About squatters.  There’s a lot of stories out there: Homeowners are showing up at places that they own where the locks have been changed, some squatter has moved in, and the homeowner has no rights.  Does President Biden think that is right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, if — my understanding is that this is, obviously, a — a local issue.  We are certainly tracking that issue.  The rights of property owners and renters must be protected.  And we believe that, you know, ultimately, what needs to happen is the local government needs to make sure that they address this and they take action. 

And so, everyone in their community in this country wants the same thing, right?  They all want the same thing.  They want their families to be safe.  And that’s what we want as well.  We want to make sure that Americans and their families feel safe. 

Q    In Florida, there’s a new law where victims of squatting can call the cops and have the squatters removed.  Would President Biden support something like that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m — I’m not going to get into — into hypotheticals from here.  What I can say is that, ultimately, this is a local issue.  And it is critical that — that local governments take action to address it. 

Again, everybody wants the same thing.  They want to feel safe in their communities.  That’s what they want. 

We certainly are tracking these stories. 

AIDE:  Karine —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  All right.  Go ahead.

Q    Hi.  So, last week, when Secretary Pete Buttigieg came, he talked about the Baltimore bridge collapse will be affecting 8,000 workers.  I was wondering if the White House had any plans for these workers. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I know that the Department of Labor — the Acting Secretary, Julie Su, is certainly working on to- –is on top of this.  So, cer- — I would refer you to the Department of Labor on what they’re doing specifically to make sure that workers are certainly — are — you know, their — their needs are being addressed. 

But want to be really clear.  We’re taking all of this seriously.  Right?  We’re — we’re taking — this is a whole-of-government approach.  And so, the Department of Labor has — has had meetings with stakeholders, as I said at the top, and looking into this and trying to figure out how we can be helpful here. 

I know I can do one more.  Go ahead.  I haven’t — go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  I wanted to ask about Adeel Mangi, who is nominated for a seat on the circuit court.  Can you talk about what you all are doing specifically to get him confirmed after —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Which — which —

Q    Mangi is his last name.


Q    M-A-N-G-I. 


Q    There were three Democratic senators now who have said they won’t vote for his confirmation.  Are you all doing anything specific to change their minds?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we — I don’t want to speak — speak specifically to members.  But I have said this many times before: The President was very proud to nominate Adeel Mangi, whose extraordinary qualifications and integrity are gaining him new backing each day, as well as retired Circuit Judge Timothy Lewis, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush.  That’s somebody who has supported it. 

He is now being backed by nearly a dozen law enforcement organizers, as well as former New Jersey Attorney General –Attorney General and former U.S. attorneys who served under Republican and Democratic governors and presidents.  He’s also backed by the AFL-C — and CIO. 

We are doing everything that we can to make sure that he gets through.  This Senate should side with qualities that make America exceptional, which Mr. Mangi embodies, not the hateful forces that we’re seeing trying to — to force America into the past. 

And so, we’re going to continue — our — our office here, the President is going to continue to do everything that we can to get him through.  We believe he’s extraordinarily qualified to — for this position.  The President is proud to have nominated him, and we’re going to continue to do the work. 

Go ahead, Brian.  You’re the last one.

Q    Hi.  Thanks a lot.  On the Key Bridge in Baltimore — Key Bridge collapse and the impact it has had on the Baltimore port.  Does President Biden want Americans to be prepared for any supply chain problems?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you heard us — you heard me at the top lay out the meet- — some meetings that we were able to do.  The task force met a couple times last week.  As you just stated, the port is — is one of the nation’s largest, as you were alluding to, shipping hubs.  And — and the Francis Scott [Key] Bridge is critical to travel in the Northeast Corridor. 

So, we have engaged in- — intensively with industry ocean carriers, ports, and labor unions to minimize disruptions as shipments are rerouted while the — the Port of Baltimore is closed to — to ship traffic.  So, the Small Business Administr- — Administration has been quickly activated, obviously.  I said this at the top.  You have the Department of Labor as well. 

This is a whole-of-government approach.  The Department of Transportation; we had the U.S. Coast Guard Admiral here that was able to — who’s running that effort, obviously, to — to deal with the cleanup and what we’re seeing there at — in Baltimore. 

And so, we are going to be there for the people of Baltimore.  That is what the President has said.  We’re going to be there every step of the way.  You’re going to see the President on Friday.  We’ll have more details to share as we get closer to that day. 

But all-of-government approach — Small Business Administration, Department of Labor, Department of Transportation, we are going to be there for — for the people of Baltimore.

Q    What’s the President’s current assessment on supply chain disruptions (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we’re obviously going to be monitoring this.  We’re going to be looking closely into that.  And that’s why we have activated — the President has made sure that we’re doing this in a — in a — you know, in a strategic way, in a smart way, and dealing with all the stakeholders that’s going to be affected by this.

All right.  Thanks, everybody.  I’ll see you tomorrow.

Q    Karine, is the President going to throw out the first pitch —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll see you tomorrow, guys.

Q    — at Nationals Park this week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll — I’ll see you tomorrow.  I’ll be back tomorrow.

Enjoy the day.

April 1 2024 Washington DC
Source: WH.govMidtown Tribune news

April 2024

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