Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Merrimack, NH

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Merrimack, NH

USA - USA DAILY NEWS 24 originally published at USA - USA DAILY NEWS 24

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Merrimack, New Hampshire

10:35 A.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hey, everybody.  All right, I just have one quick thing at the top, and then we’ll — we’ll get at it.   

So, we’re on our way to New Hampshire, where the President will be joined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough and Senators Ha- — oh — Senators Shaheen and Hassan to deliver remarks on a key priority of the — of his Unity Agenda: supporting our nation’s veterans. 

President Biden signed the landmark bipartisan PACT Act into law almost two years ago in August, enacting the most significant expansion of healthcare benefits and services for toxic-exposed veterans in more than 30 years.  Thanks to this law, the President will continue — will announce today that more than 1 million PACT Act-related claims have now been granted.  

More than 888,000 veterans and survivors across all 50 states and U.S. territories are now receiving new service-connected disabilities benefits, and that includes thousands of veterans in New Hampshire.

President Biden believes that our nation has a sacred obligation to properly prepare and equip the troops we send into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home.

And soon, you will hear directly from the President, who was — who will obviously share more on this.

Go ahead, Seung Min.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Earlier today, Israeli officials seized equipment from the AP and took down our live shot that had been going into northern Gaza.  How is that acceptable behavior in a democracy?  They’re citing their new media law.  Does the administration have a reaction to that — the Israeli government’s actions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, thanks for the question.  We’ve seen the reporting, and obviously we’re looking into them.  And you hear this from me and obviously the President himself when we talk about jou- — journalism and the importance and how essential it is to the pillars of our democracy.  And we have women and men, certainly, worldwide who — who work very hard 24/7, obviously, to uphold those pillars of democracy. 

And so, it is essential that continues, and that certainly includes journalists at the AP.  And so, we’re looking into it.  We’ve seen the reporting.  But we stand firm in our belief in — in making sure that journalists have the ability and the right to do the job that they’re —

Q    Do you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — that’s incred- — incredibly important for them to do.

Q    Do you condemn that action?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I want to be really, really mindful.  I’m going to — we’re going to — looking into it.  And obviously, this is concerning.  And so, we want to look into it. 

But we’ve always been clear — the importance of the work that you all do and the work that journalists do, and, again, how it is the pillar of our democracy.  It is part — certainly, part of our freedom. 

And you hear us say this all the time.  You guys are the Fourth Estate.  You guys hold us — hold us accountable and make sure that the facts are out there.  And that is essential to the American people, to the world, globally.  And so, we’re going to always continue to be steadfast on that.  And certainly, we’re going to look into this.  And it is concerning to hear.

Q    So, if —

Q    And I wanted to —

Q    Oh, go ahead.

Q    Sorry.  Sorry. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh —

(Cross-talk.) 

Q    The House Republicans are preparing legislation that would impose sanctions on the ICC after that announcement yesterday.  Obviously, the President has condemned the ICC announcement as well.  So, is this effort from Republican lawmakers something — something that he supports —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look —

Q    — or something that he could support?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — I’m just going to reiterate what the President said yesterday.  You heard him di- — you heard from him directly when he delivered remarks yesterday afternoon.  The ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israel leaders is outrageous.  We def- — fundamentally reject it.  So, we’re having discussions — to your questions — with — with Hill — with the Hill on the next steps.  So, I’m not going to get ahead of those discussions.

But it doesn’t — obviously, we — you heard the President speak to this pretty forcefully yesterday to all of you.

Q    The former President had up a video — a video that referred to the “unified Reich.”  Does the White House have any reaction to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be really mindful.  Obviously, the former President is a — is a candidate — presidential candidate in 2024.  So, going to be careful about responding to him directly. 

I will say — point you to the — point you to the campaign’s comments or statement yesterday. 

I will also obviously share that the President is clearly tracking this, and you’ll hear from him directly on this later today. 

What I want to say more broadly is it is abhorrent, sickening, and disgraceful for anyone to promote content associated with Germany’s Nazi government under Adof- — Adolf Hitler.  Just as it is disgraceful to dine with Neo-Nazis and say there are “very fine people on both sides” after Charlottesville. 

Any antisemitism dog whistle — whistling is dangerous and offensive and profoundly un-American.  And I am pretty sure, pretty confident you will hear from the President later today.

Q    Was that in reference to Donald Trump — what you just said?

Q    Where — which —

Q    I’m sorry. 

Q    Which — which event will the President get it — at the fundraiser or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wait, wait, say that one more time.

Q    Which event will the President comment on this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I would say during his campaign event, you’ll hear from him. 

Q    Karine, Prime Minister Net- —

Q    On the FDC — FDIC chair — has the White House begun its search for his replacement yet?  I mean, can you describe that search a little bit (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  So, let me just say, because I know this is the first time we’ll — we’ll actually — you’ll hear from me on this, so a couple things I want to say. 

We want to thank the Chair for his service at the agency and for moving to swiftly implement the recent report’s recommendation. 

The President, of course, expects those serving in his administration to reflect the values of decency and integrity and to protect the rights of all employees. 

The President will soon put forward a new — a new nominee for FDIC Chair who is committed to those values and to protecting consumers and our financial system, and we expect the Senate to confirm that nominee quickly. 

I don’t have — I don’t have any detail on the process.  Obviously, the Pres- — the President is taking this very seriously and is going to do his — obviously, everything that he normally does when he nominates someone — someone who is
qualified and can do the job.

Q    And on Jake Sullivan’s Middle East trip.  Do you have a deeper readout yet on how those meetings went that you can share with us?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, a couple of things. 

You know, you guys saw the readout from — from Jake Sullivan yesterday on the different components of the trip, what was discussed.  Obviously, he went to Saudi Ara- — Arabia, where he met with the Crown Pinc- — Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, to discuss a comprehensive vision for an integrated Middle East region.

What I can say about that: We have seen a lot of progress on that front, made a lot of progress.  And we are very close to [an] understanding on the major element between us. So, I think that’s important.

We, of course, will also have — have to — have, then, to work on pieces that relate to the Israelis and the Palestinians, which is a critical component of any potential normalization deal and must be completed at the same time. 

And obviously, he went to Israel — and we had a readout on that piece as well — where he met with a number of Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, to discuss the war in Gaza, including ongoing diplomacy to secure the release of all hostages, increasing flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, and our sacred objective of [an] enduring defeat of Hamas.

And so, it was — it was an important trip and — and constructive meetings were had with Jake Sullivan.

Q    Did you have any frustrations with the Israelis?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ve heard those reports coming out, and — and they’re not reflective of the meeting.

Just a couple of things just to — just to double down on.  So, they had a constructive and detailed discussion on Rafah, building on previous consultations.  And we’ll now see whether Israel takes our views and concerns into account in how they proceed. 

He also had a constructive and detailed discussion about the bigger regional picture, which I just mentioned, which I — I just laid out in — on the Saudi Arabia components and those meetings there.  The Israeli government is reflecting on what Jake reported, and we will discuss next steps with them after they — they consult internally. 

And Jake had a series of asks on the humanitarian front.  Israel committed to addressing all of them, and so we are already seeing some progress.  But obviously, we’re going to keep watching.

And it is important.  We have been very clear about this.  We see the dire situation happening in Gaza.  And we — and we want to make sure that all-important humanitarian aid continues to go into Gaza.  And we certainly — this President and the United States has led in that effort.

Q    Following up on Gaza.  The — Prime Minister Netanyahu had an interview with MSNBC.  He was asked about the World Food Programme’s denomination [designation] of it as a “famine” in Gaza.  He said that he has been — Israel has been flooding aid into Gaza.  Does the White House agree with that characterization?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just say — look, I just laid out the conversations that Jake had with the Israeli government on a commitment to continue to increase that humanitarian aid. 

I’ll give you a couple of updates on where we are.

On May 19th, over 400 trucks with aid entered Gaza.  These include trucks that have come in via the temporary pier — that you all know — that went oper- — started its operational process just at the end of last week. 

Since April 5th, more than 8,000 trucks have moved into Gaza.

Between April 5th and Ap- — May 19th, an average of 180 entered into Gaza daily. 

And so, while — and we understand this — while the amount of the aid [that] has entered Gaza has increased in recent days, these level of aids remains insufficient.  And so, we want to continue to press Israel to increase the level of assistance moving into Gaza soonest to reach those in need.

Again, as I just stated — answered in my last question, this is a President and administration that has led on this effort.  You heard Jake Sullivan say this last week when he was at the podium: We’re trying to do this by land, air, and sea. And so, we are committed — committed.

This is also why the hostage deal is so important, because we want to create — make sure we create an environment that — that — with the humanitarian aid that increases humanitarian [aid]; obviously, get hostages home; and, obviously, lead to a ceasefire, which is something that the President has been calling for.

Q    Can I —

Q    Go ahead, Emily.  I’ll come back.

Q    Thanks.  I wanted to ask about New Hampshire.  Where we’re going has a competitive House race in the Democratic primary.  One of the President’s former top aides, Maggie Goodlander, is running.  She’s married to Jake Sullivan, obviously.  Is she going to be there?  Is the President going to endorse her?  Have he and Jake and Maggie talked about the race?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I can’t talk about an upcoming election, and you know this.  Hatch Act, a federal employee.  I have to be — I’m covered by that.  I cannot speak on any — any campaign.  So, I just don’t have anything to share beyond what I just stated. 

You would have to reach out to her campaign directly.

Q    Just to go back to the U.S.-Saudi negotiations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    Should we expect an announcement on that agreement relatively soon?  Or where does it stand?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, what I’ve said in my answer: We’ve seen significant progress. 

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And I think that’s important.  An un- — an understanding on the major — major elements between us.  And so, I think that’s important.

Obviously, we thought — as I stated, Jake’s trip to both — not just Israel — obviously, Saudi Arabia was — was constructive and we’re making progress.

I don’t have a timeline to — to lay out to you right now or to read out, but conversations continue.  And I think what you can see from this administration is the commitment — that commitment to get there.

Q    Okay.

Q    I wanted to — to ask a question about the upcoming state visit this week. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    It’s the first state visit by a leader of Africa since 2008.  And obviously, the President said he would visit the continent last year, and that never happened.  I’m just wondering, you know, taken together, what does that say about the U.S. and the Biden administration’s commitment to the U.S.-Africa relationship?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I think the U.S. — the commitment to the U.S.-African relationship is critical and important.  And you — you know, you saw that in his — I’m trying to remember — in 2022 — right? — in that — in that — December 2022, where he had African — leaders of African nations, another summit that was historic, and they talked about U.S. — U.S.-Africa relations. 

And the President did that because he wanted to, you know, deepen that relationship, truly work on it in a way that — that is — you know, that has — that has — you know, that has longstanding — longstanding effect.

As it relates to the state visit this week, we believe this is a significant visit.  It marks the 60th anniversary of our official relations with Kenya and the first state visit by an African leader, as you just stated, since 2008. 

Kenya is a key partner on any — on an array of issues, including security, trade, investment, health, and climate.  And we’re looking to forward to — to hosting.  The President and the First Lady certainly are. 

The visit is also emblematic of our broader commitment to deepening, as I just stated, our partnership across — across the continent of Af- — Africa, building on those conversations — that I just also laid out — back — that we had back in December of 2022 with the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. 

And so, we — we sought out a state visit not only to recognize the strategic importance of our partnership with Kenya but also to forge new paths ahead as we tackle common global priorities.  And I think you’ll see that from the President on — on Thursday.  And so, we want to continue those diplomatic relationships.

Q    And what’s the reason why the First Lady is going to Andrews Air Force Base to greet the Kenyan leader and the First Lady?  I — I think that’s an unusual movement that we haven’t seen before.  Is there a particular reason why the White House and the President is sending the First Lady to JBA to greet them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I — certainly, I would refer you to the First Lady’s Office.  I — I wouldn’t look too mu- — I wouldn’t take too much from that. 

I think the — again, the First Lady and the President is very much looking forward to — to hosting — hosting the leader and his wife.  And I think that’s what you can ta- — you can take from that. 

It is — as you know, the First Lady went to Kenya when she went — when she did a trip to — to the African continent.  And I think that that is a relationship that continues, a friendship that continues.  So, I wouldn’t take too much from — from her greeting them.

Q    Can you preview any of the state dinner guests?  Who should we be watching for?

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

Q    Can you preview any of the state dinner guests? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to let —

Q    Who should we be watching for?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to let the First Lady’s Office — (laughter) — deal with their preview of the state dinner guests.  That — that lives with them.  (Laughter.)  Sorry.

Thanks, everybody. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  See you on the ro- — see you on the ground.

10:50 A.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/05/21/press-gaggle-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-en-route-merrimack-nh/

USA - USA DAILY NEWS 24 originally published at USA - USA DAILY NEWS 24