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HomeUncategorizedPress Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and White House National Security...

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

James S.  Brady Press Briefing Room

2:00 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Good afternoon, everybody.

Q Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, once again, I’m starting the briefing on a pretty sad note. Yesterday, multiple gunmen opened fire during the Chiefs Super Bowl Parade in Kansas City, killing 2 innocent people and wounding more than 20, including several children.

We pray for the families who lost loves ones, and we wish a speedy recovery to those who suffered injuries.

Since this horrific shooting yesterday, the President has received regular updates from his team, and senior White House staff have been in touch with state and local leaders.

We also thank both federal and local law enforcement and other first responders for springing into action to prevent the further loss of life.

As the President’s statement said yesterday, the Super Bowl is the most unifying event in America. Nothing brings more of us together. For this celebration to be turned to tragedy yesterday in Kansas City cuts deep in the American soul.

But the Kansas City shooting was not the only deadly shooting in America yesterday. Three police officers were shot in the line of duty in Washington, D.C., and another school shooting took place at Benjamin Mays High School in Atlanta.

Yesterday also marked six years since Parkland, and Tuesday marked one year since the shooting at Michigan State University.

We’ve now had more mass shootings in 2024 than have — than there have been days in the year. Think about that one.

Through executive action and implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Community — Communities Act, the President has taken action to keep guns out of dangerous hands by expanding red flag laws, enhance- — enhancing background checks, and cracking down on gun trafficking, while also making historic investments in violence prevention.

But, as we all know, it is not enough. Congress must act. Congress needs to act. And it is shameful that we have not seen more action on this.

We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require safe storage of guns, pass a national red flag law, enact universal background checks, and invest in proven solutions that reduce violence.

We know these actions can save lives and our communities literally can’t afford to wait.

Now, on another note. You saw our announcement today. We are ax- — excited to announce that President Biden will welcome President Duda, Prime Minister Tusk of Poland to the White House on March 12th for a joint meeting.

The meeting coincides with the 24th — 25th anniversary of Poland’s accession to NATO and underscores the United States’ and Poland’s ironclad commitment to the NATO Alliance, which makes us all safer.

They will discuss our support for Ukraine, as well as the strong U.S.-Polish strategic energy security partnership, its robu- — its robust economic relationship, and the United States’ and Poland’s shared commitment to democratic values.

And, with that, I will turn it over to the Admiral, who is here to share some newly available informor- — information that has captured Washington’s attention, as you all know.

Admiral.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Karine.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Q Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY: I know that Chairman Turner’s letter to House members and his subsequent post on social media about a national security threat has prompted a lot of questions.

Now, while I am limited by how much I can share about the specific nature of the threat, I can confirm that it is related to an anti-satellite capability that Russia is developing.

I want to be clear about a couple of things right off the bat. First, this is not an active capability that’s been deployed. And though Russia’s pursuit of this particular capability is troubling, there is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety. We are not talking about a weapon that can be used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth. That said, we’ve been closely monitoring this Russian activity and we will continue to take it very seriously.

President Biden has been kept fully informed and regularly informed by his national security team, including today. He has directed a series of initial actions, including additional briefings to congressional leaders, direct diplomatic engagement with Russia, with our allies and our partners as well, and with other countries around the world who have interests at stake.

The intelligence community has serious concerns about a — about a broad declassification of this intelligence. They also assess that starting with private engagement rather than immediately publicizing the intelligence could be a much more effective approach.

We agree with that, which is consistent, of course, with the manner in which we have conducted downgrades of information in the past. This administration has put a lot of focus on doing that in a strategic way, a deliberate way — and in particular, when it comes to Russia.

And there’s two things that we always do first when we consider about downgrades. One, we work with the intelligence community to conduct a thorough scrub of that intelligence to make sure that we are protecting sources and methods. And, two, we sequence our private diplomacy with our public disclosure to ensure the maximum effect.

In keeping with that approach, our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is meeting this afternoon with House leadership and committee chairs and rankers this afternoon to brief them on the latest intelligence and our analysis of it. And we will brief the Senate when they are back in session on the 25th of February.

I’m not going to get ahead of those discussions. As I said, we make decisions about how and when to publicly disclose intelligence in a careful, deliberate, and strategic way, in a way that we choose. We’re not going to be knocked off that process regardless of what, in this particular case, has found its way into the public domain.

I can assure you that we will continue to keep members of Congress as well as our international partners and all of you and the American people as fully informed as possible.

Nothing is more important to President Biden than the safety and security of the American people. That’s his top priority, and it’s going to remain front and center as we conti- — continue to determine the best next steps.

Now, if I could just briefly, I want to share a few words about the battlefield situ- — situation in Ukraine, where the fighting is incredibly intense in the east, particularly in a city called Avdiivka. It’s a city that we’ve talked about several times before.

Unfortunately, we’re getting reports from the Ukrainians that the situation is critical, with the Russians continuing to press Ukrainian positions every single day.

Avdiivka is at risk of falling into Russian control. In very large part, this is happening because the Ukrainian forces on the ground are running out of artillery ammunition.

Russia is sending wave after wave of conscript forces to attack Ukrainian positions. And because Congress has yet to pass the supplemental bill, we have not been able to provide Ukraine with the artillery shells that they desperately need to disrupt these Russian assaults.

Now Russian forces are now reaching Ukrainian ten- — trenches actually in Avdiivka, and they’re beginning to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses.

The cost of inaction by the Congress is stark. And it’s being born on the shoulders of Ukrainian soldiers. We need Congress to pass the national security supplemental bill without further delay. If House Republicans do not act soon, what is happening in Avdiivka right now could very well hel- — happen elsewhere along that front.

So, again, we need Congress to act right away.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead, Darlene.

Q Thank you. Addressing the matter that you addressed in your topper, can you address whether the United States has the capability to defend against the Russian anti-satellite system that they’re developing?

MR. KIRBY: I would tell you that this is still a development — I’m sorry, it’s still a capability they’re developing. We are still analyzing the information that’s available to that.

I would not speak definitively about our strategic deterrent capabilities one way or the other. We just don’t — we don’t talk about that publicly.

But we’re taking this potential threat very, very seriously. And we are examining what the — the best next steps are and what our options might be.

I want to re- — reiterate: It is not an active capability and it has not yet been deployed.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.

Q Thank you, Admiral. When was the President first informed of this threat? What has been his level of interest or concern?

MR. KIRBY: I — I don’t have a specific date on a calendar. He has been kept informed throughout. And our general knowledge of Russian pursuit of this kind of capability goes back many, many months, if not a few years. But only in recent weeks now has the intelligence community been able to assess with a higher sense of confidence exactly how Russia continues to pursue it.

And the — so, the President has been briefed on this developing capability really from the outset and has been kept informed throughout. And they say — as I said, today — including today from his national security team.

Q There’s a term that’s been tossed around in the last 24 hours or so. So, I want to seek some clarity from you. Is it a nuclear weapon, a nuclear-powered weapon, or a nuclear-capable weapon?

MR. KIRBY: I — I’m not going to be able to go into any more detail than I did in my opening statement. It is an anti-satellite capability that they’re developing. And beyond that, I will not go.

Q You’ve spent some time, though, around nuclear material or weapons in your previous military career. What the heck is “nuclear-capable”?

MR. KIRBY: What is nuclear-capable? Well, I mean, I guess it depends on the — the purpose of the — of the device we’re talking about. I mean, we — we talk about making sure that Australia has nuclear-powered capable submarines. And, of course, there’s — so nuclear energy can be used for propulsion in an engineering sense. It can also be used as a weapon.

Q So, nuclear-capable could be either of those?

MR. KIRBY: I — I am not going to get into any more detail about this particular capability than I have already. It’s just not — not prudent to do that.

As I said, we work on downgrades of intelligence in a strategic, deliberate way. We’re not going to get knocked off that approach, regardless of what’s out there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.)

Q Thanks, Karine. Thank you, John. Your statement just now seemed to push back on Turner’s call for the administration to declassify this information and the fact that he made that desire public. But the intelligence community put out a notice about an hour ago that the language was preapproved by the Biden administration. So, are you saying that the language that he put out in his statement on social media was outside of what ODNI approved?

MR. KIRBY: What I’m going to tell you, Jacqui, is that — and you’ve seen us do this, certainly since early Feb- — early 20- — 2021 when — I’m sorry, ’22 — when Putin invaded Ukraine. We have been very careful and deliberate about what we decide to declassify, downgrade, and share with the public.

And there’s a process, Jacqui, and it starts with analysis of whether information can be downgraded safely without violating sources and methods, without putting in jeopardy our ability to continue to collect information and intelligence.

Then, usually, there is an engagement strategy that goes along with that, where you talk to allies and partners, maybe the country in question, certainly members of Congress. You do that through intense internal diplomacy. And then and only then, when that’s complete, you work with the intelligence community on specific language to downgrade.

What I would tell you in this case — and Jake mentioned this yesterday — we had already begun that process — the process of analyzing it, of making sure we weren’t violating sources and methods, informing members of Congress. The President directed the team to — to start to inform allies and partners, including — not — not that Russia is an ally and partner, but to include diplomatic engagement with Russia on this. And then, we would eventually get to a point where we would downgrade and declassify.

So, we were already on the — sort of the arc of that — that — that process when, yesterday, this information regrettably found its way into the public domain in advance of our ability to do this according to process.

Q How was it “regrettably,” though, if the administration had been working with — with the committee to approve language that would make all of this known to all members of Congress?

MR. KIRBY: If there’s an — if there’s a presumption here that somehow the administration gave a green light for this information to get public yesterday, that is false. That is not true. That did not happen.

We were eventually going to get to a point where we were going to be able to share it with the American people. And we still will, as appropriate. As I said in my opening statement, we’ll keep you as informed as we can. Now is not that time for us to go into any more detail about this.

Q And yesterday, officials pushed back on the characterization that allies and partners had not been informed and said that they had been informed. When did that happen?

MR. KIRBY: We are in the process — again, which is why we’re not going to be downgrading everything here today. We are in the process of consulting with allies and partners. We are in the process with engaging with Russia about this. And we think — I know it’s a crazy thought here, but we kind of think it’s important to follow that process and do it the right way, rather than just rush to put something out in the public domain.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, go ahead, Peter.

Q John, when we talk about the potential to cripple satellites — satellites can be used to drive everything from weather forecasting to wars. You say this is something that would not impact those of us on Earth.

Why should Americans be concerned about a Russian capability that would target satellites?

MR. KIRBY: Any anti-satellite capability should be of general concern because, you’re right, there are private and public satellites circling the Earth every day. They do a number of things. You talked about — you talked about some of them there: communications, command and control —

Q What’s the U.S.’s concern?

MR. KIRBY: — transportation–

Q What’s the U.S.’s concern?

MR. KIRBY: — meteorological concerns, financial, commercial concerns. There are a lot of things that satellites do for — for the whole population of — of Earth.

And so, any capability that could disrupt that and that could therefore have some impact on services here on Earth and across the world should be of concern to anybody, I think. And including the fact that we have astronauts in — oftentimes in — in low orbit that — that could be at risk from an anti-satellite capability. So, you’re talking about potential human lives here too.

Q We heard from leading lawmakers, including those on the House Intelligence Committee saying, among other things, that this is not a immediate-term threat, this is not an imminent threat. It is a medium- to long-term threat. When we talk about medium to long-term threats, so Americans could feel comfortable with the state of this information, what does that mean? What timeframe are we talking about in terms of the concern?

MR. KIRBY: I hold you’ll understand I’m not going to get into too much more detail than I already have. I mean, as I said, I’ll — I’ll stick — I’ll stick with what I said. It is not an active capability that is yet deployed.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Mary. We’re going to get around.

Q Thanks, Karine. I appreciate it. We’ve heard some members of Congress described Turner’s actions as “reckless.” Given how you started this briefing, is that how you would characterize what he did yesterday?

MR. KIRBY: I would just tell you that we have followed a very rigorous process about how to determine whether information can be and should be downgraded and shared publicly. We were — we are — were and are in the process of that with this particular capability.

And as I said in my opening statement, we’re not going to get knocked off that process. We’re not going to be — we’re not going to have our hand forced to get out there faster and further than we think is appropriate.

Q Are you concerned that all members of Congress now have had access to this classified intelligence?

MR. KIRBY: That — that’s really for Chairman Turner to speak to since he made that decision to make it available to all members of Congress. This is based on —

Q That doesn’t concern the administration?

MR. KIRBY: — this — look — well, again, we’ll let Chairman Turner speak to his decision about how to share the information.

It is based on information that we, again, are still in the process of analyzing and sharing with allies and partners. And — and we’re just not at a point right now and we don’t believe we should be at a point right now to be too forthcoming in all the details of it as we work through this process.

But as I said, as we do with every other downgrade, we’ll get to a point, certainly, where we can — we’ll share with you as much as we can.

Q But just to clarify and follow up on Jacqui’s point: Since the chairman is now saying that some language was cleared with the administration, can you tell us what exactly he worked on with the administration and how — why that clearance was?

MR. KIRBY: No, I’m not going to — I’m not going to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Danny.

MR. KIRBY: — get into that. And I’m not going to speak for — for — for how he came to make this decision. We have a process. We’re going to stay on that process.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Danny.

Q Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Admiral. The Kremlin spokesman said today that the — bringing up this issue of the Russian anti-satellite capabilities is a ploy by the White House to pressure Republicans in Congress to — to pass the supplemental and get aid to Ukraine. What’s — what’s your reaction to that claim?

MR. KIRBY: Bollocks.

Q And just one more thing, if I may — and thank you for that answer. (Laughter.)

Last — last night, the leaders of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand issued a statement warning Israel against any offensive in — in Rafah, saying it would be “devastating” and “catastrophic.” These are some of the closest U.S. allies and part of the — part of the Five Eyes group, obviously.

Can you tell us why the United States thinks differently to them and still feels that it’s possible that Israel can offer
— you know, may be able to offer a credible plan for an offensive that can protect civilians?

MR. KIRBY: I don’t — I don’t see a whole heck of a lot of gap between what they’ve — what they’ve been saying and what we’ve been saying.

I mean, I can’t speak for them. I can just tell you that we continue to believe that under the current circumstances, without a credible plan, as the President said, to account for the more than million Palestinians that are down in Rafah — make sure that they’re — have a place where they can be safe and secure and out of harm’s way — without that credible plan, a major operation in Rafah would be a disaster. We — we agree with that. And we’re continuing to talk to our Israeli counterparts about what that plan might look like.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, April.

Q John, thank you. Listing — going back to what you were saying to Peter about satellites, life as we know it revolves around satellites. And it sounds like something would be greatly impacted —

MR. KIRBY: Yes.

Q — or even gravely if these satellites were attacked. When and how and why would the national security threat right now go up higher if something begins to move in a different direction? Can you tell us when that and why would it go up higher?

MR. KIRBY: It’s difficult to answer that question at this point when we’re talking about a capability that we don’t believe is active and not deployed. We will engage directly. We plan to engage directly with the Russians about this and — as well as allies and partners. And as I said, we’ll continue to work through what our next steps and our approaches might be.

I don’t want to minimize the potential here for disruptions should there be an anti-satellite capability of any significance. It could affect services here on Earth. There’s no question about that. That’s why we are taking this so seriously.

Q So and lastly, as we’re dealing with this and looking at the complicated relationship that the United States has had with Russia, and you say you’re going to go into conversations, do you really trust Russia when it comes to this satellite?

MR. KIRBY: There’s — there’s no issue of — it’s not about trusting. And I think — I think our record on dealing with — with Russia appropriately, I think, is pretty well-established. We don’t — it’s not about blind trust with Russia. In fact, it’s quite the — quite the opposite.

Q Is it “trust but verify”?

MR. KIRBY: Look, it’s — we certainly — we’re not — we’re not in a position where we’re trusting what’s coming out of Russia and what they say. We watch what they do. And we analyze what they do and then we make our own decisions — our own policy decisions about what we’re going to do based on — on their actions or their inactions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Patsy.

Q Thank you, Karine. John, staying on Russia, before I move on to the Indonesian election, but on a slightly different track. Vladimir Putin said that a Biden administration would be more stable and better than a Trump administration. Your reaction?

MR. KIRBY: I think Mr. Biden know — I’m sorry. I think Mr. Putin knows very well what this administration has been doing to — to counter Russia’s mali- — Russia’s malign influence around the world and certainly what they’ve been doing inside Ukraine.

We’ve demonstrated over and over and over again how willing we are to push back on what Russia is doing, again, particularly in Ukraine. And Mr. Putin should just stay out of our elections.

Q And on the Indonesian election. The candidate, Prabowo Subianto, has claimed victory. A couple of questions. Number one, when does the administration plan to congratulate him? Are you planning to wait for official counts to come out, which could be days or weeks?

And number two, this was an individual who was banned from entering the United States for many years due to allegations of human rights violations, including the abduction and torture of pro-democracy activists during the 1998 ouster of his then father-in-law, President Suharto. So, is the administration comfortable working with a person with such a track record?

MR. KIRBY: We’ll — we’ll make our congratulations known at the appropriate time. I don’t have — I couldn’t give you a date certain or time certain for that. As I understand, the results are still coming in. And the — we will respect the vote and the voice of — of the Indonesian people.

Q So, but just — just to clarify, though, the Trump administration did grant Prabowo Subianto, who was then Indonesia’s defense minister in 2020, and invited them — invited him to the U.S. because of concerns that Jakarta may be veering too close to Beijing.

I wanted to know what the Biden administration’s view is of balancing between American human rights values and geopolitical expediency.

MR. KIRBY: I think the only way I can answer that question is to reiterate that human rights, civil rights have been at the forefront — found- — the very foundation of President Biden’s foreign policy. There’s not a conversation he has anywhere in the world with foreign leaders where he’s not raising issues and concerns about human rights and civil rights. That’s not going to change.

Q And if you can take one more question. On the House Foreign Affairs Committee today — hearing today on the Afghanistan withdrawal accusing the Biden administration of reinventing the Doha Agreement and creating conditions that are ripe for a Taliban takeover. Could you give a reaction?

MR. KIRBY: We have talked and briefed at great length about the situation we found ourselves in when we came into office and a Doha Agreement that was — that was agreed to by the previous administration.

I would point you to every public comment and testimony that we have done before. I — I don’t want to — I don’t think we need to relitigate that. The President was faced with a stark choice, given the decisions that President Trump made about exiting Afghanistan.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Andrea.

Q So, Martin Griffiths, the U.N. aid agency chief, today said in an interview with Sky News that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. He later clarified that it is not on the list of groups that the United Nations c- — has of terrorist organizations. What’s the word from Washington and from the White House about those comments by Martin Griffiths?

MR. KIRBY: Hamas is a terrorist organization. We’ve said so. It is. It just is. And you don’t have to look any further than what they did on the 7th of October to see it in stark terms. And, my goodness, take a look at their manifesto, even the one that’s so-called watered down in 2017. There’s no doubt they just want to wipe Israel off the face of the map. This is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. Period.

Q Is it helpful — I mean, do you find it — you know, have you reached out to Griffiths to complain about those comments or —

MR. KIRBY: I’m not aware that we’ve done any reaching out, nor do I think we need to. We have made very clear our views of what Hamas is.

Q Okay. And then I just wanted to follow up. Israel’s finance minister has ordered these flour shipments not to go into Gaza because they’re going through UNRWA.

Over the weekend, a senior administration official said that there was hope that those flour shipments, including a very large U.S. shipment, could actually be delivered. It would feed something like 1.4 million Gazans over six months.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Yes, it would.

Q What is the status of that? And what can you do to ensure that those shipments get in?

MR. KIRBY: I wish I could tell you that that flour was moving in, but I can’t do that right now. And all I can tell you is that it’s absolutely critical as a staple for the Palestinian people, and we’re going to keep working with our Israeli counterparts to see if we can get that port open to that flour. It’s — it’s absolutely vital. They committed to allowing it in. We want to make sure that happens.

Q Did Netanyahu assure the President over the weekend that that was going to happen?

MR. KIRBY: I don’t have anything specific from the call that they had about that particular issue. But, believe me, we’re mindful of the comments made by members of the Cabinet about flour and the Ashdod Port. And we are working it very, very hard. It’s critical that that flour get to people in need.

Q And then just one more on the anti-satellite weapon capability. So, in 2007, the Chinese destroyed a satellite on orbit, smothered into many — you know, distributing a lot of debris.

You know, at that point, there was a demonstration of a U.S. anti-satellite capability that was ground-based, basically — using a weapon on the ground to destroy a satellite that was going to be — going — falling to Earth that posed some danger.

Can you say whether the weapon — the new capability that the Russians have developed is, in fact, space-based and/or does it involve some test of a weapon that is based on the ground or —

MR. KIRBY: It would be — it would be space-based. And it would be a violation of the Outer Space Treaty to which more than 130 countries have signed up to, including Russia.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Arlette.

Q If I could circle back to the direct diplomatic engagement. Have — has that contact actually been made now with Russia? On what level are these conversations?

MR. KIRBY: We are in the process of that.

Q And can you — on what level is it? With State, with Defense, with —

MR. KIRBY: We’ve reached out to — we reached out to the Russian side, but we have not secured actual conversations at this point.

Q And then, you talk a lot about when you’re thinking about declassification, that you need to be concerned about not revealing sources and methods. The way that this was rolled out yesterday, is there any concern that sources and methods have already been compromised?

MR. KIRBY: We’re asking ourselves that very question right now because we want to be able to make sure we’re not — or that in any way, shape, or form anyone could potentially compromise sources and methods. So, we’re working our way through that analysis right now with the intelligence community.

Q And if I could, really quickly, on Israel. It’s our understanding that the CIA Director, Bill Burns, traveled to Israel to meet with Netanyahu today. What was his message to him?

MR. KIRBY: I make it a golden rule not to speak to the CIA Director’s travel. I’d have to refer you to his staff on that.

But I will tell you that, just in general speaking — I’m not going to talk about his travel — but he has been very deeply involved in helping us with the hostage deal negotiations, and that work will continue. And we are very much shoulder-to-the-wheel to see if we can get something done.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael.

Q John, you said that the administration is in the process of reaching out to Russia about this issue. I’m just wondering if — if the — if Chairman Turner’s actions in any way complicates those discussions for you —

MR. KIRBY: We’ll —

Q — makes it more difficult.

MR. KIRBY: We’ll have to see.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In the back — way in the back. Go ahead.

Q Thank you. Thank you, Karine. I have two questions for you, John, on Polish leaders’ visit to the White House next month. On March 12th, 1999, three countries were admitted to NATO: Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary. Why President Biden invited only leaders from Poland?

And the second question: Why he invited both leaders, the Prime Minister and the President? This is quite unusual — two leaders from one country, especially that the — President Biden has — had not invited the former Prime Minister of Poland to the White House; he only met with Vice President Harris.

MR. KIRBY: This is a great opportunity to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Poland coming into the Alliance. It’s also a terrific opportunity to show our gratitude for everything that Poland has done, not just as a great NATO Ally — and they are — but everything they’ve done to help support Ukraine, including security assistance and hosting more than a million — I think it’s a million and a half Ukrainian citizens on their soil.

They’ve been generous. They’ve been spirited. They’ve been strident in the support of the alliance and in Ukraine, and the President is looking very much forward to seeing both leaders here in Washington, D.C.

Q But why both at the same time? That’s quite unusual, right?

MR. KIRBY: The — this was — this was all — all done in consultation with our — our Polish counterparts in terms of how we were going to structure this meeting. And again, the President is very excited, very much looking forward to it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to start wrapping it up. Go ahead.

Q Thank you. Now that the Pakistani elections are over, several U.S. congressmen have raised concerns about the way it has been handled. They said is not free and fair. Does the White House believe that the Pakistani elections were not free and fair and the people’s mandate has not respected there?

MR. KIRBY: We’re concerned. And we share our concerns about the — some of the reports that we’ve heard coming out of Pakistan in terms of intimidation, voter suppression, that kind of thing.

And so, we are — we’re watching this very, very closely.
And as I understand it, votes are still being tallied. So, international monitors are still taking a look at — at those tallies. I’m not — I’m not going to get ahead of that process.

Q And secondly, in the last several weeks, several Indian students and Indian-American students have been attacked throughout the country. There’s concern among (inaudible) India sends one of the largest number of students to the U.S. There is some concern in India and the parents that the U.S. is no longer safe — could not be longer safe for their students and are reluctant to send the kids here. What’s the message to them?

MR. KIRBY: That there’s no excuse for violence, certainly based on — on race or — or gender or religion or any other factor. That’s just unacceptable here in the United States. And the President and this administration has been working very, very hard to make sure we’re doing everything we can to work with state and local authorities to try to thwart and disrupt those kinds of attacks and make it clear to anybody who might consider them that they’ll be held properly accountable.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Andrew.

Q John, you mentioned the Outer Space Treaty several questions ago. And that is, as you said, enforced. But Russia has pulled out of several arms control treaties in the last few years. Is the administration confident that this treaty is not going to go the same way — that there’s faith in the Russian government to not unilaterally violate the treaty?

And if they do, will the U.S. pull out of the treaty to keep pace?

MR. KIRBY: Whether Ru- — what Russia does with its treaty requirements is up to Mr. Putin to decide. I can’t answer that question. And I’m not going to get into a hypothetical about what we would do and what we wouldn’t do.

We are engaging — we’re going to engage with Russia. We’re going to engage with our allies and partners. We are a signatory to that treaty. We take our obligations under that treaty very seriously. And we have no intention of violating it.

Q There’s been some speculation that the spur for developing this — this weapon is — has been the use of satellite — U.S.-launched satellites from SpaceX for — by Ukraine — Starlink satellites. Is there any truth to that? Is there anything that you can say on whether this — this weapon is —

MR. KIRBY: Whether that’s the motive here?

Q Yes.

MR. KIRBY: No, I’m not going to get into any of the intelligence analysis. As I said, we’re still working our way through this. We still have to brief members of Congress, allies, and partners. I’m not going to get into that.

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

Q You had mentioned, regarding this Russian situation, that the information that was disclosed made its way into the public domain. Well, that was Chairman Turner. Have you ever had a situation before where a chairman of an intelligence committee has disclosed publicly information of this nature or any other intel information that normally stays within committee?

MR. KIRBY: I — I don’t know of a — of a similar instance here. But as I look back at the news coverage yesterday, just to be clear, much of the reporting about the supposed alleged details of this capability came from anonymous officials.

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

MR. KIRBY: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Appreciate it.

Q Thank you, John.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you.

Q Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, Darlene.

Q Thank you. Do you have anything to share on a lockdown at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, that’s the first I’m hearing about that, so I would have to look into that and get back to you on that.

Q Secondly, in Venezuela, the government today ordered the local U.N. Office of Human Rights to close up and gave its staff 72 hours to leave. Is there any reaction from the U.S. to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any reaction at this time. Obviously, that’s something that we are concerned about, and — and obviously going to continue to monitor. I just don’t have an immediate reaction to that at this time.

Q Final question. Of ch- — the CEO of Ford, Jim Farley, was at an auto conference in New York today. He said the company will have to rethink where it builds future vehicles after the long UAW strike. Could this be a downside of union negotiating such a big contract? And is there anything the White House or the U.S. can do to keep jobs from going sou- — moving south? He’s talking about moving auto manufacturing out of the U.S. after —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well —

Q — the UAW strike.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just say that the President has — takes that very seriously. That’s one of the reasons — if you think about the CHIPS and Science Act and other legislation that — historic pieces of legislation that the President has been able to get passed and obviously he signed into law, bringing manufacturing back to the U.S., creating more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs under this administration. Obviously, it’s something that he takes really seriously.

He believes in “Made in America.” He believes in investing in America. So, always, we’re — we’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that continues.

As it relates to the beginning of your question, the President is a union guy. He believes that collective bargaining is the — is the right of union workers. He believes that it is — it is important, just like the UAW was able to — they were able to negotiate for their historic contract, that they should be able to that. They should be able to ask for better benefits and better wages, you know?

And so, that is something that the President is always going to speak for and is going to stand up for. And he’s — you hear him say this all the time: Unions build the middle class. And he believes that.

And as it relates to manufacturing, he has proven — he has proven through CHIPS and Science Act and other, as I messtin- — as I mentioned, other policies out there that bringing back manufacturing here into the U.S. is important. It’s critical. Creating good-paying jobs here in — in the U.S. is important. It’s criti- — it’s critical. We have to build an economy from the bottom up, middle out.

Go ahead.

Q Thanks, appreciate it. We’ve seen estimates from some experts that the new policy announced by the Department of Ed opening up the possibility of debt relief for borrowers could reach, actually, tens of millions of borrowers. But it could still be a while off — still in the rulemaking phase, potentially more lawsuits.

So, what’s your message to borrowers right now who are looking at this news? You know, how should they be looking at this process? Can they get their hopes up?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m not going to get — I’m not going to get ahead of commenting on what CO- — CBO is going to say. I’m not going to pr- — do any projection from here.

The President has been very clear. It’s kind of in line of what I said to Darlene about the importance — the importance for fighting for Americans, importance of making sure that we give them a little breathing room. That’s what the President believes.

And when it comes to his student debt relief, that is that. We see there are families across the country that’s crushed by student debt. And that shouldn’t be. And it prevents them — it prevents them from moving — from moving forward with buying a home, you know, starting a family.

And so, it is important that we — the President believes it’s important that we do everything that we can to do that. He has launched the most affordable income-driven repayment plan ever. That’s important. And he’ll continue to fight to deliver to reli- — to give relief to borrowers across the country.

So, that’s not going to stop him. I hope that. That’s what Americans continue to hear: that he’s going to do everything that he can to make sure that we give Americans a little bit more breathing room.

Q How confident is the White House that this new rulemaking approach will hold up in court?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we — we believe that this will stand up in court. We believe that that’s one of the reasons why, obviously, the Department of Education published this new proposed regulatory tax. And so, we’re very confident. We’re very confident that — that that will occur.

But it doesn’t — it’s not going to stop the President trying to figure out more ways — more ways to continue to make sure we give relief to borrowers across the country.

Q And last, can you just tell us any more about what we should expect to see tomorrow when the President visits East Palestine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s a good question. Obviously, we’ll have more to share later today as we put out the daily guidance.

As you know, and I’ve stated this before, the President, as you all know, is going to go to East Palestine, obviously. But he is going at the — at the invite of the mayor. The President is going to hear directly from the people of East Palestine.

This is a trip that he has been wanting to make but wanted to make sure that it was the right time to do. Obviously, when the derailment happened, the federal — federal agencies were on the ground within hours and — and many of them have continued to be there, whether it’s the EPA or FEMA.

And so, that’s what you’re going to see. We’ll have more details to share later today. But you will see a president that is — that goes out there — whether it’s a red state, blue state, urban America, rural America — to hear and make sure that he is a president for all, especially when they’re dealing with this — you know, this awful, awful event that happened specifically in this community.

And look, one of the things that we’ve heard from this community: They do not want to be just known for one event, right? But at the same time, we have to be there for them. We have to hold Norfolk Suffolk [Southern] accountable, which is what we’re going to do. The Department of Transportation obviously continues to do that. And he will be on the ground and he will hear directly — directly from the community.

Go ahead, Andrea.

Q Thank you, Karine. So, I just wanted to follow up on — on the — on the Kansas City Chiefs shooting. Does the President — he’s often gone to the site of shootings. Is he planning to go to Kansas City to, sort of, grieve with the people there in person and —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I can say is obviously — let me just say — and I’ve already offered up our — obviously, our prayers for the families who lost their loved ones and to the victims, obviously, as well. Many of them are children.

And it is — one thing I can say for sure is the President is devastated by this and also frustrated. It is frustrating to continue to talk about and put out — for him to put out a statement — or for me, even — and, I’m sure, for all of you to cover another shooting.

And this gun violence epidemic is — is, you know, really destroying our communities. It is having an effect on our communities. And he is going to do everything that he can to continue to move forward with protecting our communities.

But Congress needs to act. Congress needs to act.

This is a president that has taken two dozen executive actions on this particular issue, obviously. We passed a historic piece of legislation in a bipartisan way just about two years ago.

It is time for Congress to do more. We need them to do more.

As it relates to travel to Kansas City, I don’t have anything to — to read out to you at this time or anything to announce. But, yes, it’s important to go to the communities when it’s needed — obviously, when they’ve had such tragedy.

But what is also important is Congress needs to act. This cannot continue. We cannot continue to see this epidemic.

As I mentioned, several children were part of this shooting. When you hear that gun violence is the number-one killer of our kids here in this — in the U.S., that’s not okay.

Q Is the President —

Q Karine, on that issue.

Q Sorry.

Q On Kansas City, though —

Q Is the President planning to speak to the victims and/or the families of the survivors? And then I have another quick one.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. No, totally understand. Look, don’t have anything to read out on that. The President is keep — is keeping regularly updated by his team. Obviously, they’re going to continue their investigation on the ground, and we’re offering all — all support needed to — to law enforcement and also, obviously, the community.

But, again, this is something — it is incredibly frustrating. It is incredibly frustrating. We need to see more here. We need to see more from Congress.

Go ahead.

Q I’m sorry. Can you also confirm Daleep Singh is returning to the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: To who?

Q Daleep Singh, the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh. I can’t confirm that. I don’t have anything for you on that. Yeah.

Q Just a quick —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You might know more than I do, actually.

Q A quick Kansas City clarification.

Q We couldn’t hear what she said. What did she ask?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Daleep Singh — she asked if Daleep Singh has come back to the — to the White House. I just don’t have —

Q Or is coming back.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — anything else. Is coming back. I just don’t have any —

Q To replace Mike Pyle, yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Mike Pyle, yeah. I don’t have anything for you at this time.

Q A quick clarification on what you said about Kansas City at the beginning.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q Because I’ve heard from a few people who were watching live as you said it. And according to the transcript, you said two people have died. The reports are one. Did you know —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well —

Q Do you have different information?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I did not know I have different information. From what I’ve been told from the team, we — the number that we have is two. And I can go back to make sure, but that is what I’ve been told from the team.

Q Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q So, that’s a different —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Totally understand that.

Q — death count than we’ve heard from elsewhere.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Totally understand. And I’m happy to — to make sure — to clarify that for all of you. But that is what I was told but from my team.

Q Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. No problem.

Go ahead.

Q Tomorrow marks one year since the President’s last physical. So, can you give us any type of sense of timing for when the next physical will be?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It will happen. I don’t have a timeline for you. It will happen. Hope- —

Q By end of month?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) I don’t have a timeline. It will happen. And like we have done in the last two years, it will be transparent. We will have in — the — a memo for all of you. I just don’t have anything for you at this time. It will happen.

Q And last year, you gave us about a two weeks’ notice. On February 1st —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q — you told us it would be February 16th. So, should we anticipate that you’re going to give us that amount of lead time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me — I will doublecheck with the team on this. I don’t have a timeline for you at this time. So, just don’t want to get ahead — ahead of what’s going on, obviously, with the team. So, I just don’t have anything more to share at this time.

But he will have one. He will have it. He will have a — obviously, a physical. We will be transparent, just like we have been in the last two years. And we, obviously, will — will provide his health records and all of the information as we’ve done the last two years.

Tamara, go ahead.

Q Yeah. On Tuesday, President Biden came out, and he said, “I’m not going to answer your questions today. I will answer them tomorrow and the day after.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q What was he talking about?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he was outside yesterday, and he took questions from some of you.

Q And what about today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Today, I don’t have anything to share on his — beyond what you all know, don’t have anything to add on his public schedule.

Q Okay. And at the risk of tripping over the Hatch Act —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh. Is that what I do — trip over the Hatch Act? (Laughter.)

Q No, I’m about to fall over it for you. Nikki Haley recently made a pronouncement about President Biden’s near-term plans, and I’m hoping to get your response. I will quote what she said over the weekend at an event. Quote, “My bet is 30 days from now, I don’t think Joe Biden is going to be the nominee. You’re going to have a female president of the United States. It’s either going to be me or it’s going to be Kamala Harris.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to be very careful here. As you just stated, there’s a Hatch Act. I am a federal employee. I cannot speak to Nikki Haley’s, I don’t know, magic ball that she may have or whatever it is that she’s trying to predict.

I’m just going to be super, super careful here. And the President is obviously — you know his intentions for 2024. I’m just going to be — be very mindful.

Q And he doesn’t have any plans in the next 30 days —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President —

Q — to exit stage left?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not sure what crystal ball she’s looking at, but it’s not the one we have. I’m going to keep going.

Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q So, Kansas City Police Department has said that the shooting yesterday was a result of a dispute between — that involved two juveniles. I’m just wondering: Given the fact that Congress doesn’t appear likely to act anytime soon, are there any tangible steps the administration can take to help keep guns out of the hands of teenagers, particularly given that these happened in kind of neighbor- — neighborhoods all over the country?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s a good question. That’s why we say we need to do more. That is exactly why we say we need to do more. We need Congress to do more.

And I know your question about Congress. We have to put the pressure. We were able to pass a bipartisan piece of legislation that the President signed into law, obviously, two years ago. So, they took the first step. They need to take another step.

And there — there is executive action. There is obviously the office of anti-gun violence that we started here. It’s a historic office. It’s going to do everything that we can to help communities as they’re dealing with these types of tragedies to make sure we’re moving faster. And with the — the bipartisan law on — the Safer Communities Act, make sure things are moving at a rapid pace.

And so, that is kind of the goal of — of the office. But we actually need Congress to do more. We have to. We have to. And we have to put the pressure on them to do that.

Q If I’m not mistaken, it’s already illegal in most places for people under 18 to have guns. Is this an enforcement issue? Is — is it that law enforcement needs to step up to get guns out of kids’ hands?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, there are many issues — right? — obviously law enforcement issues. There are many issues that need to be addressed. And that’s why federal — federal legislation is important to this as well.

But look, we’re going to — I’m not going to get ahead of what the investigation is on the ground, what they’re looking into.

But it’s a problem. It is devastating. It is devastating for, once again, to talk about a shooting.

And it’s not the only shooting that happened this week or yesterday, even. And so, we have to get Congress to act. We have to get Congress to make sure that they’re continuing to do the work that they started, right?

If you think about high-capacity magazines, that needs to — that — assault weapons, we need to ban those.

Safe storage of guns — that needs to be something that we continue to require.

Pass a national red flag law. We see those in certain states, but we need that on a national level.

We need to enact universal background checks.

All of those things that I just laid out, as you’re asking me this question, is going to have an effect. And so, we need to see those — those items dealt with by Congress. We need to see legislation. That is one of the — that — one of the solutions to reduce violence.

Q Missouri also has very lax gun laws statewide. Is this also an issue at the state legislative level that — that the state legislatures —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look —

Q — aren’t imposing —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — we believe —

Q — strict enough laws?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, obviously, it’s an issue at state legislative levels. But we’ve also lifted up some of these states that have done the extra — extra actions — right? — to make sure that their state is protected.

But we also need Congress to act so we can see a national red flag law, so we can see a ban of assault weapons — right? — so we can see high-capacity magazines also banned. These are all important. These are the things — that I just listed out — is going to save lives.

Go ahead, April.

Q Karine, on that subject, as you’re passionate from the podium about this and this is an election year, do you expect the President to lean in to push Congress to act on gun legislation, gun reform, et cetera, leaning in on a consistent basis this year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I think we’ve been pretty consistent on leaning in on what we’re seeing in communities — gun violence that we’re seeing in communities. We’ve been pretty consistent on calling out Congress.

I mean, this is the second time this week that I’ve talked about a shooting — I think maybe even the third time this week that I’ve talked about a shooting that’s occurred, whether it’s an anniversary or an active shooting that just happened that day.

And every time — every time I’m at the podium, every time I talk about this — these devastating events, I talk about what the President has done, I talk about what Congress — what he’s been able to do with Congress, and I’ve talked about what are the next steps.

And so, look, we have seen from Americans across the country, gun violence is an issue that is important to them. That’s why the President took — took historic actions. That’s why we have that Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that’s now law. Those things are important.

But we need to do more. We need to do more, and that is for Congress to do more.

Can you imagine — the first two years of — of the President’s administration, he did two dozen — more than two dozen actions? That’s unheard of, but that also shows you how committed he is to trying to stop this epidemic. To stop — if that doesn’t show commitment from this President, I don’t know what else.

And then having bipartisan conversation to pass the first — the first anti-gun-violence law in 30 years — in 30 years. I think the President has shown his commitment to this issue. What we need is Congress to take another step with us.

Q Is this a third rail issue during the presidential election season, you think, for the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A third rail issue in what way?

Q Is it an issue — meaning it’s polarizing. The gun issue is very — it’s — it’s a very sensitive issue. You have Republicans and the gun lobby —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah?

Q — who will go (inaudible) —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I see what you mean.

Q — yeah — against him.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But, look, we’ve — we were able to do bipartisan legislation — right? — almost two years ago. We were able to do that. So, obviously, we have their attention. Obviously, there’s some care about what’s happening in our communities.

But we need to take them — take — let — get them to take a step further, right? The gun lobbies cannot own this. Right? Right? They — we cannot allow them to — to take away our rights or our ab- — you know, our ability to save lives. We got to save lives here.

Children — children were part of what we saw yesterday. It’s not okay.

Q And lastly, East Palestine, Ohio.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q The President is traveling there. I can’t help but think about when Obama went to Flint, Michigan, and he drank the water there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q I can’t help about Jackson, Mississippi, and some of the officials drinking water there. It’s two totally different situations with the water, but are you expecting the optics of the President drinking water tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can say this, that the President has no concerns with drinking — drinking the water in East Palestine. The EPA is confident that the drinking water is safe. I’m sure some of you might remember when the EPA Administrator Regan was — was there — one of the many times that he’s visited, he drank the water there last year. So, we have no concerns.

Go ahead.

Q Thanks, Karine. The Senate is on recess. They’re not back until the 26th. The House will go on recess until the 28th. And there’s a government funding deadline coming up on March 1st. Does the White House want to see Congress cut recess short and come back and deal with spending bills ahead of that deadline?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you — you just said something that’s very true. Like, the House decided to leave early, and they went on recess. That’s what they decided to do while there are important issues in front of them that they’re just not dealing with. That’s the House leadership. They made that decision.

And, you know — and it’s kind of a — it’s kind of unfortunate. We need them to do the people’s business. They have a really important national security supplemental in front of them that they should take up — that if put on the floor, it would get bipartisan support. There was a border deal that — a bipartisan border deal that was — that came out of the Senate. They — the House leadership — the Speaker, more specifically — did not want to deal with it. He — he killed that bill.

I mean, there are issues upon issues that they can deal with, and they refuse to. Instead, they went and impeached Secretary Mayorkas on a baseless — baseless, shameful — shameful way.

And so, look, they left early. That’s for the — that’s for — for them to speak to. But that’s not what we’re — we want to see here. We want them to take action and actually move forward on the — and on behalf of the pe- — of the American people.

Q But the Senate is out, too. Are you concerned that they’re cutting this too close to get the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we shouldn’t —

Q — the government funding done? And how worried are you about a shutdown in early March?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We — we believe — we’re always concerned about a shutdown. And — but we believe that Congress more — both House and the Senate — obviously, it’s their job to keep the government open. And we want them to do that. We want them to continue to keep the government open. It is their basic, basic duty to do that. And so, that’s what we want to see. That’s what we want to see. And they should act sooner, not later.

Go ahead, Jon.

Q Thanks a lot, Karine. The other day you were talking about the crime rate across the country. And you are absolutely correct in saying how the crime rate has gone down in several large cities, New York and Chicago.

But here in the District, it is not, and there were 274 homicides here in the District of Columbia in 2023. That’s the highest murder rate in more than two decades, since 1997. This is the President’s home, at least a few days a week. What can he do, personally, about reducing the level of crime that we’re seeing here in the nation’s capital?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just be very clear: All violent crime, not just here — all violent crime anywhere is completely unacceptable. We want to — I just want to make that very clear here.

You know, every community in this country should feel safe, wants to be — want to be safe. And so, that’s important.

But I will say this, you know, congressional Republicans, they don’t seem to feel that way. And I say this because the President has taken action. From the first piece of legislation that he signed into law, American Rescue Plan — only Democrats voted for that; Republicans didn’t vote for that — there was billions of dollars in that plan to deal with crime, to make sure there were law — more law enforcement in communities, to make sure that communities are able to — to keep — to keep families and Americans safe. They didn’t vote for that. And we’re talking about — we’re talking about billions of dollars to federal, state, and local governments, and they didn’t vote for it.

And so, look, I just talked about the bipartisan gun safety legislation, where he was able to secure that. He took that very seriously, worked with and went — in that particular instance, worked with both sides of the aisle to get that done, something we hadn’t seen, again, in 30 years.

Just last month, the Department of Justice committed more federal prosecutions — proc- — prosecutors, agents, and analysts to fighting gun crime in D.C. That matters. That’s an action that the Department of Justice took.

So, look, we need to do more, but the President has taken this very seriously from the first couple of months of his administration. Signing that American Rescue Plan and getting billions of dollars into communities was indeed incredibly important. Again, Republicans did not sign that. They did not. They did not vote for that.

Q So, it’s just a — a Republican issue — the large number of homicides that we’re seeing here in the District? There’s nothing —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s not the question you asked me. You asked me — wait, wait —

Q Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, you asked me, “What else can the President do?” I laid out with the President did. I also called out Republicans for not doing enough, for not being — working with the President on trying to actually deal with an issue. That’s what you asked me. That’s what I answered.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q Can he fed- —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.

Q Can he federalize anything —

Q Thanks, Karine. Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.

Q Thanks, Karine. Yeah, two very different questions. One on China and the southern border. More than 20,000 Chinese migrants have illegally crossed the southern border in 2024, and the vast majority, according to the National Border Patrol Council President, have been single men of military age. What kind of national security issue is this, given China’s hacking of U.S. infrastructure, the spying that they do, and the other aggressions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we take that very seriously — what’s happening at the border. Everybody — we try to make sure that, you know, as it — as it relates to unlawful — unlawful crossings, we certainly do everything that we can to make sure that — that we deal with that in a real way.

Look, the DHS has fully mobilized their agency to deal with what’s happening. We saw in January — we saw a 50 percent drop from the month before of — of illegal entries. That matters.

And so, this is why — to your question, this is why it was really important to get the border security negotiation done.

We understand there’s a challenge at the border. We understand we need to do more. We understand that there’s an immigration system that has been broken for decades. We had a bipartisan agreement. We wanted Congress, in the House, to pass that to move that forward, and they didn’t. And they didn’t.

And so, DHS is fully mobilized, is doing — since May of last year, they have been able to — they have been able to remove more than — more than 500,000 illegal crossings. And so, that is something that they’re going to continue to work really hard.

The President has added more C- — CBP, more — more patrol officers on the border. But, you know, we need more. We understand we need more.

Q And on the student loans — things you did. The CBO director testified on Capitol Hill yesterday saying that the fiscal policy currently is unsustainable. Then he went on to say that the changes to the SAVE program for forgiving more student loan debt would cost taxpayers more than $100 billion. Why is it worth all taxpayers to burden this cost?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the CB- — I’m not going to get ahead of a CBO proj- — project- — projection. I’m just going to be really careful here.

What the President has said over and over again — and I just went back and forth with one of you colleagues on this — he wants to make sure that we give Americans a little bit more breathing room. That is im- — important to this President.

We understand what student loans do for families. It crushes families. It crushes Americans.

So, he wants to continue to do everything that we can to make sure that they have that breathing room. And so, it’s not going to stop him. And we believe that actions that we take — I think that’s one of questions that I got from your colleagues — it — we believe that I has — it has legal — legal standing so that it can — we can move forward with them.

But, look, it is an important issue. It is an issue that Americans care about, and we’re just not going to stop moving forward on that.

Q Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, all right. All right. Bye, everybody.

Q Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll see you on the road, whoever is going to Ohio with us.

3:00 P.M. EST

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/02/15/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-white-house-national-security-communications-advisor-john-kirby-3/

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