May 30, 2024

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, February 10, 2023

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, February 10, 2023

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:14 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  From February 20th to the 22nd, President Biden will travel to Poland.  He will meet with President Duda of Poland to discuss our bilateral cooperation, as well as our collective efforts to support Ukraine and bolster NATO’s deterrence. 

He will also meet with the leaders of the Bucharest Nine — a group of our eastern flank NATO Allies — to reaffirm the United States’ unwavering support for the security of the Alliance.  

In addition, President Biden will deliver remarks ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, addressing how the United States has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and democracy, and how we will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes.

With that, my colleague, John Kirby, from the NSC is going to come up and share some words and take some questions.  

MR. KIRBY:  Thanks, Karine.

Afternoon, everybody.  Just a couple things here at the top.  I think you know President Lula from Brazil is here today.  He’ll be meeting with the President soon.  He’s looking forward to that discussion.  

Brazil is a key partner of the United States in a region that is also a critically important region and an ally as we look to work together to address common challenges throughout the world, quite frankly, not just in this part of it.

The President has personal experience working with President Lula from his time as Vice President, and they met several times and have had multiple calls.

And we — of course, as you know, we’ve already held a number of high-level engagements since President Lula’s election.

President Biden called President Lula shortly after he was elected to congratulate him and to begin identifying areas where the two countries could work together.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan traveled to Brazil for meetings with then President-Elect Lula and members of his incoming administration.

And Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland led — led a presidential delegation to Brazil for the inauguration.

And, of course, following the January 8 attack on Brazil’s democracy, President Biden was quick to call President Lula to convey the United States’ unwavering support for democracy in Brazil.

The two have had — or they will have a packed agenda here today, discussing issues that are important to both of them and, as I said, to the region and to the world.

That includes combatting climate change, stimulating economic development, strengthening democracy, promoting human rights and inclusion, as well as managing irregular migration.

This meeting between the two leaders will strengthen the relationship between the United States and Brazil and will help set the stage for upcoming high-level engagements between our two countries.

One more note before we jump into questions, and this is just an update on U.S. efforts to respond and to help provide assistance to the people of Türkiye and Syria in the wake of those devastating earthquakes.  

We are ramping up our assistance to — to these earthquakes that have now killed more than 20,000 people in Türkiye and Syria, including — that we know of — at least 8 American citizens.  

This is a terrible tragedy, obviously, and our hearts continue to go out to all those impacted.  We remain in close contact with our Turkish allies at every level of government, including, of course, a phone call between President Biden and President Erdoğan.

Yesterday, we announced that the United States will provide $85 million in lifesaving assistance to provide shelter to the displaced, as well as food, medicine, and other desperately needed aid.  

In Türkiye, a USAID Disaster Assistance and Response Team is already on the ground.   And two of our most highly trained urban search-and-rescue teams are conducting operations in support of Turkish rescue efforts in Adıyaman, one of the hardest-hits — hardest-hit areas inside the country.

These teams have nearly 200 personnel combined between them, specialized equipment, and — and canine support dogs as well.   They have been able to expand their operational reach with the support of U.S. military Blackhawk helicopters.

And because of the extensive damage to roads and to bridges, ground taran- — transportation, I think you can understand, is pretty challenging.  

They’ll continue to run airlift operations from Incirlik, transporting rescue personnel to sites that they are most needed to conduct operations.  

The DART teams, as we call them, are also conducting structural damage assessments of many buildings and infrastructure.  To date, they have been able to cover more than 630 sites across Adıyaman.

In Syria, our humanitarian partners continue to urgently scale up response efforts to reach people in need.  That work will include or has included chartered flights that are transporting essential medical supplies and teams distributing hot meals and other food.  

As of this morning, the United Nation and — United Nations and its partners successfully completed its second cross-border humanitarian convoy into northwest Syria.  And one of our humanitarian partners delivered 14 additional truckloads of supplies through the Bab al-Hawa Crossing, totaling now 20 trucks of critical medicines, food, and water to people in need over the last two days.

To underscore that U.S. sanctions will not prevent or inhibit prohibiting [providing] humanitarian assistance in Syria, yesterday the Department of Treasury, I think you saw, issued a broad general license to provide additional authorizations for disaster relief assistance to the Syrian people.  

We already were able to deliver humanitarian assistance without this general license, but we wanted to underscore the importance of humanitarian aid getting in, and so the Treasury went ahead and issued this license as well.  

This license will be in effect for six months.  U.S. humanitarian assistance is delivered directly to the Syrian people, no matter where they live.

And we are determined to do all that we can to help those affected by these earthquakes in the days, weeks, and months ahead, as required.  

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, John.  Marek, go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  So, on the trip to Poland, why did the President decided to go to Poland?  What message he wants to deliver?  And is there any chance that he would visit Ukraine during his visit to — to Poland?

And I have also one on President Lula’s visit.   President Lula has said he wanted to create a group of countries, including China and India, to mediate peace between Ukraine and Russia.  Does the President support this effort?  Is this the right time for opening negotiations?

MR. KIRBY:  Okay.  Well, there’s a lot there.  So, look, on the — on the trip, I don’t have any other additional stops to speak to.  Karine announced the purpose of the trip, and that’s to go to Poland. 

And — and in Karine’s opening statement, I think she answered your main question, which is: What does he want to talk about?  He wants to talk about the importance of the international community’s resolve and unity in supporting Ukraine for now going on a year.

Wouldn’t it be great if the President didn’t have to make a trip around the one-year anniversary of a war that never should have started?  Sadly, that’s where we are.  

And he wants to make sure that he’s sending that strong message not only of the United States’ resolve, but the international community’s resolve — and to make clear to the Ukrainian people, most particularly, that the United States is going to continue to stand by them going forward.  

We know the next weeks and months are going to be difficult and critical, especially for their armed forces, and the United States is going to continue to stand by them.  

On your question about the — President Duda and his — his peace overtures or ideas — is that what —

Q    President Lula.

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, Lula.  I’m sorry.

Q    Lula, yeah.  He said that he wants to create a group of countries to negotiate peace in Ukraine.  And those group, according to him, would include China, India, and maybe some other countries.  

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I certainly would refer to President Lula to speak to his ideas.  I think, in the — in the aggregate, we all would like to see this war end today.  We’d like to see it end right now — in other words, without having to go to the negotiating table. 

That doesn’t appear to be in the offing, as Mr. Putin, just over the last 24 hours, flew dozens more cruise missiles into civilian targets into Ukraine, knocking out heat and power across the country.  

So, absent that, we’re going to have to stay at the task of supporting Ukraine so that they can succeed at the battlefield, so that if and when President Zelenskyy has determined it’s time to negotiate and sit down at the table to solve this diplomatically, he can do it with the wind at his back.  He can do it with the strength that he — that he knows he’s going to need in that negotiation.  

So, it’s really up to President Zelenskyy to determine if and when negotiations are appropriate and certainly under what circumstances.  As President Biden has said countless times, “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, MJ.

Q    On that trip to Poland, can we expect the President to make any kind of formal announcement as it pertains to maybe additional security aid?  Or will it mostly be sort of a symbolic show of support, as you were talking about, to the Ukrainian people, the U.S.-Polish alliance?

MR. KIRBY:  I won’t get ahead of the President’s remarks.  Certainly, I’m not going to do that. 

Again, the President will make it very clear that the United States will continue to stand with the Ukraine for as long as it takes.  He will continue to call for the kind of international unity that we’ve seen, not just across NATO but across the world — or not just across Europe. 

And I think he will certainly make clear that additional security assistance, additional financial assistance, additional help for Ukraine will be coming from the United States.

But I won’t– I won’t get ahead of anything specific.

Q    And I had a quick follow-up on the Chinese spy balloon.  This idea that President Xi Jinping may not have been aware of the order to send this balloon over U.S. soil, what would that tell you if that were true about his grip on his own government?  Is it — you know, is it possible that it’s suggests a kind of power breakdown?  Is it surprising to the U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  We certainly can’t confirm these reports about President Xi’s personal knowledge of that.  And I would refer you to the PRC to speak to their own leadership issues and information sharing.

What matters to us is that this was a violation of our sovereign airspace and, clearly, with intent.  Now, whose intent?  I don’t think we have a perfect picture of that right now.  Clearly, without question, the — the intent of the PRC, because we know that this balloon belonged to them. 

And President Biden acted decisively in support of our national sovereignty.

Q    But our reporting is that U.S. officials briefing lawmakers this week told lawmakers that this is the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment.  Right?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to speak to intelligence assessments from the podium.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, we got to — we go to keep going. 

Go ahead, Jonathan.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Admiral, there’s been warnings from the Ukrainians as well as intelligence agencies in both Europe and in here that as the one-year mark of the war approaches, that might be a moment where Putin tries to really escalate the conflict, maybe even launch some sort of major new offensive.  Are you seeing any signs of that being in the works?

MR. KIRBY:  What we see, Jonathan, is that the Russians continue to conduct offensive operations in the Donbass area.  The fighting around Bakhmut remains pretty vicious, even as you and I are talking. 

Clearly, as we’ve seen over the last 12 hours, he’s willing to continue to barrage the country with cruise missiles, knocking out civilian infrastructure, and trying to make life more difficult for the Ukrainian people.  And we do believe that he will try to take advantage of these winter months
to restock, resupply, rearm, contribute to his manpower in —
in what could be offensive — renewed offensive operations come spring. 

But have we seen all that take shape now?  I don’t believe we’re at a point where we’ve seen all of that really form.  But we’re anticipating that and, frankly, so are the Ukrainians. 

And that’s one of the reasons why you’ve seen, in just recent weeks, the kinds of security assistance packages that — from the United States and from others — that are more advanced capabilities, the kinds of capabilities that will allow them to fight in open terrain, combined arms capabilities, armored capabilities, artillery.  All of that is designed to help them prepare for whatever the Russians might be planning in the spring. 

All that is to say: We do expect that, again, as the weather improves, the fighting will probably get more vicious.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Hi, John.  I have more follow-ups on the Lula visit as well as the assistance the U.S. is providing to Turkey.  But really briefly, can you speak to rumors that there is another Chinese balloon above Alaska or any other parts of U.S. territory that the U.S. shot down?

MR. KIRBY:  So, I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours.  Alt- — the object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight. 

Out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to down the object. And they did, and it came inside our territorial waters.  Those waters right now are frozen — but inside territorial airspace and over territorial waters.

Fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command took down the object within the last hour. 

Okay.

Q    And can I just follow up, John — and thank you for that; that’s really helpful.  Can you give more details on the support that the U.S. is providing to Turkey.  Specifically, we understand that the USS George H.W. Bush is on standby.  Can you update us on whether there’s been any communications with Ankara on whether the ship will be any part of humanitarian efforts?

MR. KIRBY:  I think I updated as much as I could right now.  What we’re doing is what I put in my opening statement.  You’re right that there are naval assets that are in the Mediterranean and under the command of U.S. Naval Forces Europe.  The commander of U.S. European Command has designated the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe as in charge of the operational coordination for military assets, and they’re — and he’s doing that.

I cannot speak to any specific contributions by the aircraft carrier USS George W. Bush — George H.W. Bush.  But obviously, there’s lots of oper- — there’s lots of capabilities in the Mediterranean region that could be brought to bear, but we’re working — and this is a really important point — we’re working in lockstep with our Turkish counterparts here to make sure that what we’re providing is what they need at the scale and the speed that they need and not — you know, not trying to overwhelm their system with unneeded material or unneeded capability. 

So, there’s — you know, you talked about the Bush — but there’s a lot of military capability on the continent under the European commander’s authority that could be used.  But, again, we want to make sure that we’re doing this in a — appropriately through Turkish counterparts.

Q    Just really briefly on the visit by President Lula —

Q    Can you just —

Q    — can you speak about how —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Trust me.  I know.  I know — I’m going to come around, but she’s still asking questions.

Q    I know, but —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I hear you.  I hear you. 

Q    Just — just the last question —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know this, Kelly O, better than I do. 

Go ahead.  Finish your question (inaudible). 

Q    Just the last question: Can you speak on how Brazil can be a partner in monitoring irregular migration, specifically because Brazil has been a route for Africans coming to the U.S. through Mexico?

MR. KIRBY:  I — as I said, I would expect President Lula and President Biden to talk about the challenges of irregular migration.  You saw the Vice President just — just this week hold a — holding a conference of some of our neighbors about this call to action to try to get at the root causes. 

And certainly, we look and would welcome President Lula’s ideas and perspectives on how we can get at the root causes of all the migration in this hemisphere.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Kelly O, the floor is yours. 

Q    Thank you.  When I hear news, I just get very excited.  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY:  Fancy that.

Q    So — yes.  So, can we just go back for a moment?  So, another aircraft of some sort — airship, balloon, something — was shot down today.  Who owns it?  What were the circumstances?  Was the President directly involved in ordering this?  And is wreckage being recovered?

MR. KIRBY:  Okay —

Q    Or —

MR. KIRBY:  So, I’m going to try.  Remind me if I forget something.

Q    Okay.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, the President absolutely was involved in this decision.  He ordered it at the recommendation of Pentagon leaders.  He wanted it taken down, and they did that.  They did it using fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command.

The Pentagon will have more to say about the details of this later on this afternoon.  It’s only just within the last hour.

We’re calling this an “object,” because that’s the best description we have right now.  We do not know who owns it, whether it’s a — whether it’s state owned or — or corporate owned, or privately owned.  We just don’t know.

Q    Country? 

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t — we don’t know.  That’s why I said “state owned.”  We don’t know if it’s state owned. 

And we don’t understand the full purpose.  We don’t have any comp- — we don’t have any information that would confirm a stated purpose for this object. 

We do expect to be able to recover the debris, since it fell not only within our territorial space, but on what we — what we believe is frozen water.  So, a recovery effort will be made.  And we’re hopeful that it will be successful, and then we can learn a little bit more about it. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right —

Q    Was its appearance like the Chinese aircraft?

MR. KIRBY:  No, it was —

MR. KIRBY:  — it was much, much smaller than the spy balloon that we took down last Saturday. 

The way it was described to me was roughly the size of a small car, as opposed to, you know, a payload that was like two or three —

Q    Buses?

MR. KIRBY: — buses’ size.  Right?  So much, much smaller.

And — and they’re — and not of the same — not — no — no significant payload, if you will. 

Q    And lastly —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  And —

Q    — and lastly, is it now the policy of the United States that if unidentified aircraft are over U.S. territory that it is likely the President will choose to shoot it down?

MR. KIRBY:  The President will always act in the best interests of our national security and in the safety and security of the American people.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jacqui.  We’re going to go around, guys. 

Q    Thank you. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q    Thank you.  John, so the Pentagon ordered this new object be taken down over Alaska —

MR. KIRBY:  The President ordered it.

Q    The President ordered it.  So, is it a fair takeaway then that the Pentagon regrets not taking down the first balloon before it crossed the entire U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I’m not going to speak for the Pentagon.  I can tell you that the President doesn’t regret the way that we handled the first balloon.  That time we —

First of all, apples and oranges here, in terms of size. 
As I said, this was the size of a small car.  And it was over a very sparsely populated area, but also, more critically, over — it was over water — water space when we ordered this down, as we did the — as we did the last one.

But a completely different size.  And the debris field for this we expect to be much, much smaller than would have been for the other one.  That’s difference one.

Difference two: We knew for a fact that the PRC balloon that we shot down last week was, in fact, a surveillance asset and capable of surveillance over sensitive military sites and that it had self-propulsion and maneuver capabilities.  There’s no indication that this one did. 

The other one — the first one — was able to maneuver and loiter, slow down, speed up.  It was a very — it was very purposeful, that flight path, within inside the — inside the jet stream. 

Q    But that would suggest that maybe you should have taken it out —  

MR. KIRBY:  And —

Q    — over Alaska too, though?  But, well — 

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I think — look, the Pentagon has already spoken to this question about whether or not they should have or could have shot it down over Alaska airspace.  So I would refer you to — there was hours and hours of testimony yesterday on that. 

Q    On the communications, though, we still don’t know — and correct me if I’m wrong — we don’t know what intelligence or communications could have been collected or what devices they were targeting, as I understand it. 

So, that being said, how can the President say it was not a major breach?  We don’t know that. 

MR. KIRBY:  What we do know is — we knew the basic flight path of this thing.  And we were able to take steps at sensitive military sites that we believed would be along the flight path to significantly curtail any intelligence ability that the Chinese could get — get from — from the balloon — certainly curtail anything that would be above and beyond, you know, what they normally try to collect through other means. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Zeke.  And we’ll get around.  I promise.

Q    Thanks, John.  Was this latest object that was shot down within the last hour — was that detected based upon any information gleaned from the monitoring of the last balloon over the last — over last week in terms of what you’ve learned about that Chinese program?  Did that then inform the decision to shoot this — this item down?

MR. KIRBY:  I think I’d — I’d be careful saying that — anything specific to — to what we’ve learned from that last platform.  And, you know, we did — we were able to collect some information from it while it was in flight.  That was another reason why we let it traverse over land the way it did.

But I — I would be — I would not say that information gleaned from our surveillance of that surveillance balloon provided insights that — that permitted this detection and tracking.

Q    And as of this moment, are you convinced that you shot down — do you know what you shot down?  That it wasn’t just, you know, a harmless weather balloon; that — you know, that there was some motivation for flying this over U.S. airspace?  Or is it — is it truly about —

MR. KIRBY:  I think we’re going to try to learn more.  I can tell you it was an object that it was at 40,000 feet, and the — the predominant concern by the President was a safety-of-flight issue at that altitude. 

And, remember, the one that was shot down last Saturday was at 65-plus thousand feet.  So, no threat to civilian aircraft.  This one, at 40,000 feet, could have posed a threat to civilian aircraft.  And it did not appear to have the maneuverable capability that the other one did.  So, you know, virtually at the — at the whim of the wind. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Weijia.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  So, just — thank you, Kirby.  So, to follow up on what you just said about civilian aircraft, is that what you meant initially when you said there was a reasonable threat to shoot it down?

MR. KIRBY:  There was — yes.

Q    Or was there something else?

MR. KIRBY:  My exact words were “a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight.”

Q    Okay.  And to — given what you said earlier about intent with regard to the Chinese spy balloon, does the U.S. give any credence to the Chinese argument that the balloon accidentally veered off course and ended up where it did?

MR. KIRBY:  The — which one?  You’re talking about the one from last week?

Q    The spy balloon.  Yeah.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.  There — say that again.  Was it —

Q    Does the U.S. give any credence to the Chinese argument that this thing accidentally veered off course and ended up where it did?

MR. KIRBY:  No.

Q    So, was it targeting specific places?  Was it targeting military sites?

MR. KIRBY:  What we know is that the flight path executed took it over sensitive military sites.  What we also know is that it could maneuver; that it had propulsion capability and steerage capability and could slow down, speed up; and that it — it was on a path to transit over sensitive military sites. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jordan.

Q    Thanks.  Admiral Kirby, on the latest object, you said it did not appear to have the maneuverability capabilities that the Chinese spy balloon had.  Did it have any maneuverability? Or was it flying on its own?

MR. KIRBY:  At this time, all I — all I can tell you is it did not appear to have the ability to — to independently maneuver. 

We’ll — we’ll attempt recovery, and we’ll see what we can learn more from. 

Q    And then, just —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to go to the back —

Q    — sorry, just one more on the Chinese spy balloon.  We’re reporting that the U.S. is about to impose export controls on Chinese companies that are believed to have been involved in that balloon surveillance program.  Can you confirm that and say when the administration might impose those export controls?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not in the position to confirm those reports right now, and I’d refer you to the Department of Treasury. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Admiral.  I believe you said this was shot down — or at least it landed in the waters — or the frozen waters off the coast of Alaska.  Correct?

MR. KIRBY:  That is our initial assessment. 

Q    So, is the policy still — considering the first one was shot down off the East Coast and this high-altitude object was shot down off the West Coast, is the policy at this point in time: You can shoot it down if it’s over — over a body of water?

MR. KIRBY:  I wouldn’t derive from these two incidents some sort of policy that comes out of it.  The President will always act in the best interests of the American people and in our national security. 

Last week, we were talking about a surveillance asset that was purposely flown over the continental United States.  In the case today, we’re talking about an object — again, we don’t know a lot about it — but that at its altitude represented a potential threat to the safety of flying customers — you know, civil air traffic.

Q    Based on your broad and deep experience, who do you think might own or have flown this thing in the air?

MR. KIRBY:  I have no idea. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Mary.

Q    We know you don’t know who owns it and who was flying it, but has anyone from the administration reached out to the Chinese to see whether they will claim this new object?

MR. KIRBY:  I know of no outreach this afternoon to the Chinese government about this.

Q    The State Department, over the weekend or the last few days (inaudible) — but since the first spy balloon, confirmed that they think that these Chinese spy balloons have gone over 40 countries.

Considering that fact and this new development today, what’s next on a larger diplomatic front?  Is the U.S. talking with allies about how to police the skies, about how to bring this to the U.N. to figure out what to do?

MR. KIRBY:  We are — we are talking to dozens of nations who we know have — have been overflown by Chinese surveillance balloons — part of this program that the Chinese have invested in — to share with them the context and information that we’ve learned by the forensics we’ve done since we came in office about this particular program. 

And I would remind you that we — we briefed Congress in a classified setting back in August about this.  This is not something we haven’t been trying to learn more about.  We’ve been aware of it and trying to glean more information from it.

And this — we expect that the recovery of the debris from the balloon we shot down on Saturday — last Saturday will help us gain even more information. 

But we are in the active conversations with many of these countries who we know have been overflown. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Joey.

Q    Yeah, where specifically in Alaska was the high-altitude object shot down?

MR. KIRBY:  So, I’m going to — the Pentagon will be talking more about this a little bit later.  They’ll probably have more detail for you. 

But the general area would be just off the very, very northeastern part of Alaska, right near the Alaska-Canada border.

Q    So, near the Arctic Ocean?

MR. KIRBY:  Very — well, yeah.  In fact, that’s where it went down, on that — on that northern side of Alaska near the Canadian border, on water that is frozen in the — yes, in the Arctic.

Q    So, it was never over land?  It was never over Alaska?

MR. KIRBY:  No, it was.  It was.

Q    It was?

MR. KIRBY:  It was.

Q    Okay.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    And it was shot down within the last hour.  When did — you said — when did the first — when did the U.S. first get intelligence that it existed?

MR. KIRBY:  The knowledge about the balloon and the track first came to our attention last evening. 

Q    Okay.  What time thereabouts?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have an exact time on the clock for you.  It was last evening.

Q    All right.  Well, it’s — have you ruled out — I mean — or not “ruled out.”  But you have not determined that it was surveillance in nature, correct?  You’ve not —

MR. KIRBY:  We haven’t ruled anything in or out.  We — and that’s why we’re calling this thing an “object.”  And —

Q    But you just — Kirby, you just called it a balloon.  You misspoke there in the — your answer?  

MR. KIRBY:  I’m sorry.  It’s not a — yes, I’m sorry.  You guys have —

Q    But you can’t say it’s a “balloon” even?

MR. KIRBY:  You guys have me with balloon on the brain right now.  (Laughter.)

This was —

Q    On all of our brains.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, seriously.  (Laughs.)

MR. KIRBY:  This was an object.  Let me just clarify: I’m not classifying it as a balloon right now.  It’s an object.  We’re still trying to learn more from it. 

That it landed on — on wat- — on water that is frozen, could help us assist — make it easier for us to try to recover some of the debris.  U.S. Northern Command is examining what the possibilities for that are.

Q    And finally, you’ve said you have no knowledge of any outreach to the Chinese yet from the administration.  Are there plans to reach out and ask whether they claim —

MR. KIRBY:  I know of no plans to reach out to the Chinese specifically on this.  I want to stress again: We don’t know what entity owns this object.  There’s no indication that it’s from a nation or an institution or an individual.  We just don’t know.

Q    So you don’t even know if it’s foreign entity, right?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t know who owns this object. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re going to keep going.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Are you tracking any other foreign objects right now at this time?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not aware of any other tracks. 

Q    And then, also, I know that you said that this was due to a civilian aircraft threat, but why not wait until it’s over warmer water where you could eas- — more easily recover (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  It wasn’t heading over warmer water.  It was heading over the Arctic.  It’s not very warm. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, James.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  And, thank you, Admiral.  One question on today’s incident and then one on a separate subject, if I may.

Given how little was known about this object at the time that our forces shot it down, is it safe to say that when the President ordered that it be shot down, he did not know whether it was a manned or unmanned object?

MR. KIRBY:  We were able to get some fighter aircraft up and around it before the order to shoot it down.  And the pilots’ assessment was that this was not manned.

Q    Okay.  On a different subject, after the State of the Union Address — minutes after he finished delivering the State of the Union Address, President Biden encountered in the halls of the Capitol Brittany Alkonis, the wife of your Navy comrade, Ridge Alkonis, who, as you know, remains imprisoned in Japan.  And the President told Mrs. Alkonis, “We’re going to get this done.” 

I wonder if you can tell us if the Alkonis case figured in the conversation that the President had with the Japanese Prime Minister when he visited here last month and if you can flesh out the President’s promise to Mrs. Alkonis.

I know generally you don’t like to say a whole lot about these kinds of efforts, but what can you tell us about what’s being done on behalf of Lieutenant Alkonis?

MR. KIRBY:  I would go back to what I said to you last time, James.  I mean, the President is well aware of this case, and he’s well aware of what the family is going through.  He’s also well aware of concerns by the Japanese government with respect to their judicial system.  And — and he’s got the team working on this. 

I’m not going to disclose personal conversations that the President had either with Mrs. Alkonis or with Prime Minister Kishida.  But he’s well aware of it, he’s tracking it, and so is the national security team. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Admiral, over here.  I wanted to ask you —

MR. KIRBY:  I’m —

Q    Two questions.

MR. KIRBY:  I need to watch where her hand is going.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sometimes it’s going nowhere.  (Laughs.)

Q    One on the shootdown that you just described and the other one on Ukraine.

On the incident that happened in the past hour, I wanted to know: Is there any line of communication that you can describe that has been ongoing over the course of the past two weeks on the diplomatic side of things?  I know that the Defense Secretary says that his conver- — his call to his counterpart was not returned from China.  But on the diplomatic side of things, are there lines of communication between the U.S. and China right now?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, certainly.  Look, we have — we have an embassy in Beijing.  Diplomatic discussions routinely happen with — with Beijing.  So, of course, the diplomatic channels remain open. 

Sadly, the military ones do not appear to be open right now.  Secretary Austin made a good-faith effort to reach out to his counterpart and — and was rebuffed. 

And that’s unfortunate, particularly when times — at times like this, you want to keep as open as you can the lines of communication.  And the President is committed to that. 

Q    And then, on Ukraine, President Zelenskyy was in the UK earlier this week, and he received a promise from the UK government that the UK would train Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard jet fighters.  Can you tell me if you think that’s a good idea?  Is that something that the U.S. is considering in terms of training Ukrainian pilots on NATO aircraft as well?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, if they’re going to get Western aircraft, then they’re going to need to be trained on them.

Q    Does that mean that will happen?  They’ll get Western aircraft?

MR. KIRBY:  I — that would be up to the nations that — that may be willing to provide aircraft. 

I’ve said it before, you’re probably tired of me hearing about — hearing me say it, but these are all sovereign decisions.  And if a — if a NATO nation or even a non-NATO nation wants to provide capabilities like fighter aircraft to Ukraine, that’s certainly their decision to make. 

And one would assume that if you’re going to introduce a system into a — into a military that they have no experience with, that there’s going to have to be some training that goes along with that.

We’re doing it right now.  Fort Sill, Oklahoma, we’ve got Ukrainian soldiers learning how to use a Patriot battery.  And outside of Ukraine, we’re helping train them on combined arms maneuver. 

So, it’s not unusual to do that if an advanced capability is provided, but that’s going to be a national decision. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Cristina.

Q    Thank you, Admiral.  Thank you, Karine.  Isn’t there a concern that these objects — that the object and the balloon were both discovered when they were already flying over U.S. airspace?  Shouldn’t they be detected before they enter the U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  I think we’re going to continue to learn a lot about how — how these things are or can be detected in a better way.  You heard the NORTHCOM commander talk about certain gaps that he felt he had in his domain awareness. 

So, from this incident last week, we will learn.  We’ll certainly learn about the capabilities of that surveillance asset.  But we’re also — we also expect to learn more about our own processes and our own systems for detection and tracking. 

I don’t want to get into exactly how this one was detected, but I can assure you that — that we’re going to continue to try to improve our own knowledge base with respect to these systems. 

Q    John, just one more quick question on that, on the object.  Can you say anything about the proximity of it and its flight path to the sensitive oil fields near Prudhoe Bay?  And was there any threat at all at any point to that equipment in that region of Alaska?

MR. KIRBY:  I’d refer you to the Pentagon for more details about the track.  Again, this just all happened within the last hour or so.  I don’t know what the proximity was to oil fields. 

And your second question was —

Q    Oh, it was just about the sensitivity — you know, the oil fields, basically. 

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, I mean, we just don’t know what this object was.  We don’t — it’d be difficult for me to point to a threat or a specific concern, such as oil fields, when we don’t really understand what this object was doing.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  A couple more. 

Q    Okay.  And then, I just had one more quick question on the Russian — completely different topic.  The Russians have said they’re going to cut oil output now.  What is the U.S. response to that?  And will you reach out to OPEC to ask them to sort of compensate the difference so that the price of oil doesn’t escalate at a time when you’re just starting to see inflation — or inflation is starting to come down?

MR. KIRBY:  Once again, Mr. Putin is willing to weaponize energy.  And this — this move, if it proves to be true, it doesn’t come as a big surprise, is a reaction to the — to the price gap.  And it just shows you the lengths to which he’s willing to use resources like energy as a — again, as a weapon.

What the United States will do — have done, will continue do — is work with allies and partners to make sure we can better balance supply and demand and try to meet that need. 

It’s important, we still believe, that Mr. Putin not be allowed to profiteer in an inappropriate way off of the oil he puts on the market so that he can then fund his military in the field.

Q    Will you reach out to OPEC?  That was sort of —

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any diplomatic outreach to speak to today.  We’re going to continue to talk to allies and partners.  Certainly, OPEC falls in that category.  But I don’t have any specific conversations to talk about.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Jannie, go ahead.  And then Steven.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Thank you, John.  I have two questions.  China is claiming ownership of the balloon.  And China said that they will take leader action.  Will you send the balloon back to China?

MR. KIRBY:  There are no plans to send the debris that we are recovering back to China.  We’re going to pull it up off the bottom of the wa- — off the ocean, and we’re going to learn more about this capability.

Q    Okay.  I have a second question.  Iran is building a drone factory in Russia, and North Korea is receiving military drones from Russia.  How do you do view arms cooperation between North Korea, Iran, and Russia?

MR. KIRBY:  I can’t confirm those specific reports, Jannie.  But I was up here not long ago talking about the burgeoning defense relationship between Iran and Russia, which is not only not good for the people of Ukraine, it’s not good for the people in the Middle East.  Because it’ll flow both ways, and Russian capabilities could very well end up in Iranian hands. 

And I would say the same about North Korea.  We know — I got up here and showed you pictures — we know that they’re providing ammunition to Russia — artillery ammunition specifically.  And again, that’s not only not good for the people of Ukraine, it’s not good for the Korean Peninsula and the region there that Russia and North Korea could be, again, developing a deeper defense relationship.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Steven.

Q    Thanks, John.  Just a few more on the object.  You said it was discovered last night.  Was it flying consistently at an altitude of roughly 40,000 feet that entire time?

MS. KIRBY:  Roughly.  Yes.

Q    Were there any — given that, were there any sightings that you’re aware of by airmen —

MR. KIRBY:  No, sir.

Q    — civilian aircraft operators?  No?

MR. KIRBY:  No, sir.

Q    And can you — just to nail it down, can you tell us when the President gave the order to shoot it down?

MR. KIRBY:  Gave the order to shoot it down this morning.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

MR. KIRBY:  Again, just to keep following up on the same topic, the speed with which you guys — with which the President apparently decided to shoot it down, having just discovered the first intelligence of it last night, and, by the morning, he’s saying shoot it down — was there something specific — more specific about the threat than just generally being in the airspace at which — the height at which —

MR. KIRBY:  The predominant reason — the predominant reason driving the President’s decision was the safety of flight issue.

Q    No, I understand it was.  But there had — I mean, that’s a really big area up there.  It’s not all that many planes.  It’s not like it was in the middle of the Northeast Corridor or something.  Is there no way in which that could have —

MR. KIRBY:  But —

Q    — you guys could have said, “Hey, air…” — you know — “…airplanes, like, steer clear of this area until we know better what this thing is, because we’re…”

You know what I mean?  In other words, was there some reason why —

MR. KIRBY:  The President wasn’t willing to take that kind of a risk in time because it — because this thing did not appear to be self-maneuvering.  And, therefore, at the mercy of prevailing winds, it was — it was much less predictable.  And — and so, the President just wasn’t willing to take that risk.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Toluse.

Q    Thank you.  You mentioned that there were fighter aircraft who were able to determine that it likely was not manned.  Were those fighter aircraft able to determine anything else about it from up close that they wouldn’t be able to find out otherwise?

MR. KIRBY:  They worked really hard to try to get as much information as they could about this object.  Given its size, which was much smaller, and the capabilities on the fighter aircraft themselves — the speed at which they were flying — it was difficult for the pilots to glean a whole lot of information — not like we were able to glean off the other — the balloon.  Not the “other” balloon — the balloon.  Thank you, Michael.  (Laughter.)

And we also had, you know, several days to track that. 

So, there was a limit to how much they could divine.  Also, it was detected at night.  And so, the first engagement by fighter aircraft late last night was, again, difficult for them. 

You know, it just — it’s just — it was a small object.  And these are fighter aircraft flying at pretty — pretty high speed.  And the ability to get a lot of — to glean a lot of information was limited, which is why they did another flight earlier this morning to see if we could get more.

I mean, they did the best they could.  But, again, the speed and — and the conditions up there as well as the size the object made — made it a little bit more difficult.

Q    Just to confirm: There were two — there was a flight last night that —

MR. KIRBY:  It was a — yes. 

Q    — to do some surveillance, and then one this morning.

MR. KIRBY:  That’s — that’s right.  There was at least two that I know of.  Again, the Pentagon will probably have more detail, but at least two. 

There was a — last night a couple of fighter aircraft surveilled it, tried to glean as much information as we could about what it was so we had a sense. 

And then another such flight today.  And, of course, that flight ended up, you know, in a shootdown. 

Q    And just — sorry, just one more question.  From —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re running out of time.   

Q    From the White House podium, do you have a message for whoever is responsible for this aircraft or anyone who may have similar aircraft about what the White House response is?

MR. KIRBY:  I’d rather — than sending some sort of message in that way, I would just tell you that we’re going to remain vigilant about our airspace.  We’re going to remain vigilant about the skies over the United States. 

And as I said earlier, the President takes his obligations to protect our national security interests and those of — and the safety and security of the American people is paramount.  And he’s always going to make — he’s always going to decide and act in a way that is commensurate with that duty.  That’s — that’s the real takeaway here. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, way in the back.  Go ahead.

Q    Did the U.S. ask Brazil to block Iranian warships from docking in Rio?  And if so, why?

MR. KIRBY:  We did not ask the Brazilians to — to block that.  Those ships are sanctioned ships specifically, and we don’t want to see them dock anywhere in this hemisphere.  And we’ve been very clear about that. 

But there was no specific ask made of Brazil.  That’s a sovereign decision that President Lula has to make.

Q    I wanted to follow up on a question I asked you in September.  In light of the Chinese spy balloon incident,
does this administration consider Chinese land purchases near U.S. military bases a national security threat?

MR. KIRBY:  We are always concerned about potential foreign collection near or around our military sites.  And you’re right, last week is a good example of that.  We take that seriously, whether that’s terrestrial related or whether it’s from — from the air.  And I think I’ll just leave it at that.

Q    Would you be working, perhaps with Congress, to put in place legislation to prevent that kind of —

MR. KIRBY:  We are always willing to work with Congress to address our national security interests and threats as best we can. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  A couple more.  We’re actually running out of time.  Go ahead. 

Q    Karine — thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Admiral.  So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, no.

Q    Oh, me?  All right.  Thank you.  Thank you, Karine.  Admiral, just real quick, is there a timeline for recovery of this object? 

MR. KIRBY:  You’d have to talk to the Pentagon.  I don’t know.  Again, guys, this just happened within the last, now, hour and a half.  And — and they’re still assessing where this thing landed and the degree to which they can get to it.

Q    And on the Poland visit, I know in the statement that you put out, Karine, it says that the President is going to meet with leaders of the eastern flank NATO countries.  Are any other European leaders, NATO leaders expected to join the President on this trip?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re still putting the agenda together.  The pre- — predominant reason to meet with them — the Bucharest Nine, as we call it — is to really talk to those nations who are literally on the — the eastern flank of the NATO Alliance, but I can’t rule in or rule out that there may be additional attendees or additional meetings that the President might have.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Sebastian. 

Q    Thanks very much.  Hello, John.  Over here.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, thanks.  (Laughter.)

Q    Back to Lula — if can remember him — is there going to be any commitment to the Amazon Fund by the United States during this visit? 

MR. KIRBY:  I think I’ll — let’s — let’s have the visit occur here shortly, and we’ll be — provide you a readout.  I don’t have anything specific on that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Two more.  Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you.  So, John, the U.S. Special Presidential Coordinator for Global and Infrastructure Energy is in Angola.  So he met with President Lourenço.  Can you elaborate a little more on this visit?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any information on that.  We’ll take the question and see if we can get you a better answer.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Just a quick one on the timeline.  Was the President briefed on the object last night when the track first came to the —

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.

Q    — administration’s attention?

MR. KIRBY:  He was as soon — as soon as the Pentagon had enough information to provide him, they did that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Last question.

Q    Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go.

Q    Thank you, madam.  Thank you, John.  As far as Russia’s war against Ukraine is concerned, one year now, does the President believe that when Prime Minister Modi of India told President Putin to “stop the war” and “this is not the way,” that this time — that war should go like this?  And do you think there is still time for Prime Minister Modi to stop the war or convince President Putin?

MR. KIRBY:  I think there’s still time for Mr. Putin to stop the war.  I think there’s still time for Mr. Putin to stop the war.

Q    Do you think Prime Minister Modi can convince?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll let Mr. — I’ll let the Prime Minister speak to whatever efforts he’s willing to undertake. 

I want to stress it again, Goyal: I mean, certainly, the United States would welcome any effort that could lead to an end of hostilities in Ukraine that are in keeping with President Zelenskyy’s objectives and his leadership, his determination of what is acceptable to the Ukrainian people. 

Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.  So, President Biden has said this — gosh — dozens of times.  We think this war could end today; it should end today. 

The — the single person responsible for what the Ukrainian people are going through is Vladimir Putin.  And he could stop it right now. 

Instead, he’s firing cruise missiles into energy and power infrastructure, and trying to knock out the lights and knock out the heat so the Ukrainian people suffer even more than they already have. 

He could end it right now.  And since he’s not willing to do that, clearly, we’ve got to make sure we can help the Ukrainians succeed on the battlefield so that when President Zelenskyy determines it’s time to negotiate — and he’s the only one that can make that determination — he can do it with the strongest hand possible.

Q    And finally, sir, 1.4 billion people in India are waiting for President Biden to welcome.  When is the next trip or —

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any travel, other than the travel that Karine talk to you today.  I don’t have any travel to announce. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Admiral.

Q    Thank you, sir. 

MR. KIRBY:  Thanks, guys.  Have a good weekend. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Admiral. 

Okay.  Now for the boring part of the briefing.  (Laughter.) 

We just have a few minutes, guys, so we don’t have a lot of time.  So let me just go over the week ahead. 

So, later today, as you all know, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with President Lula of Brazil.

Tomorrow, the President and the First Lady will welcome governors and their spouses for a black-tie dinner at the White House.  The Vice President and the Second — Second Gentleman will attend.

On Tuesday, the President will deliver a keynote address during the National Association of Counties at the Wash- — at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

And we’ll certainly have more to share on the week ahead in — in a day or two. 

And finally, there is a bittersweet day for us — a bittersweet moment for the Communications and Press teams and all of us of here at the White House.

I’ve gotten to know Kate Bedingfield as a colleague and a friend, being in the trenches together and representing the President’s agenda together.

I’ve actually known Kate since 2007.  That’s a whole ‘nother story.  But Kate has been fighting this fight on behalf of the President since long before the campaign was launched, going back to when she was his Communications Director as Vice President.

She’s been a trusted source of strategic advice and an unflinching voice for the President’s message and values, playing an integral role in our successes these first two years and on the campaign.

She’s also a pillar of this team, which she helped build as the Deputy Campaign Manager across the primary and general elections.

I understand that after a certain previous occupant of this White House, whose name will be nameless, but — as you know who this person is — he got angry and yelled and said, quote, “Biden has a team of killers.  All I’ve got — all I’ve got is a defense.” 

Okay, that was in the campaign.  That was — the campaign communications team started calling Kate and the captain — the captain of the Team [of] Killers. 

That doesn’t surprise me at all because if there’s one thing Kate is, is she is a leader.

We’re very sad to see her go, but no one has earned some time with their children, spouse, and dog more than Kate. 

And I look forward to welcoming Ben LaBolt — as you all know, he has been announced to replace Kate as Communications Director — back to the White House.

Ben has had a top role — communications role on the last three successful Supreme Court nominations by Democratic Presidents.

We all got to work with him closely when he was the head of communications for the confirmation of Jus- — of now-Justice Jackson, and we’re glad that he is coming back to be a more permanent part of the team. 

I’ve known Ben for many years, including both Obama-Biden campaigns and the Obama-Biden White House, where he worked on climate change and civil rights.

I was happy to reconnect with him when he took over communications for nominations during the transition, helping advance the case for the most diverse Cabinet in history, and for a host of groundbreaking sub-Cabinet positions as well.

He brings a cutting-edge understanding of modern communications to the table, and I know he’ll fight hard for the President’s agenda in the upcoming year — months and years.  

I also knew — I also know that Ben is making history — as you know, we believe, here in the Biden-Haris White House, that representation matters.  He will be the first openly gay Communications Director, which is very, very important indeed.

Okay.  With that —

Q    Hey, Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — Zeke. 

Q    Could you just — the release on the President’s trip to Poland, it didn’t say where he would be going in Poland.  Can you let us know the cities?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We will have more to share as we get — as we get closer to the day.  We just wanted to make sure that you all had the information that he will be traveling during the dates that I laid out: the February 20 — 20th to the 22nd.  And we’ll certainly have more to share.

Q    On a completely different topic.  Last night, there was reporting that the former Vice President was subpoenaed by the Special Counsel Jack Smith as a result of some investigations into the previous administration.  Obviously, it raises a bunch of privilege concerns.  Would the President waive executive privilege for the former Vice President’s testimony before a grand jury or (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I’m just not going to — as you can imagine, not going to speak to this.  I’m just going to refer you to Department of Justice.

Okay.  Oh, nobody has a question?  I can leave right now. 

Q    Karine, thank you.  A new inspector general report accuses the Architect of the Capitol, Brett Blanton, of a bunch of things: widespread misuse of taxpayer-funded government vehicles, misleading information to investigators, impersonating law enforcement.  That’s in addition to making the decision not to go to the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, which outraged Democrats and Republicans.

And the President is the only person who has the authority to fire him.  Is that something he’s considering?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, obviously, we’re taking this very seriously.  And we’re seeing the report — reports as well, as you know.  And we take any advice that the members of Congress or any action that they want to take very seriously as well.

I just don’t have anything for you at this time to speak to on that particular matter. 

Go ahead, Jordan.

Q    The House passed, on a bipartisan basis, overturning D.C.’s new criminal code and also a law that would allow non-citizens to vote.  Is that something that the President would sign into law?  Or would he veto it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I would have to go back to the team and just get an answer for you on that.  I just don’t — I don’t know that particular piece of legislation.  This is the first time I’m hearing about it. 

So, once I get back to the team, we’ll have an answer for you.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q    Hey, Karine.  While this briefing has been underway, the National Archives has released some of the communications between the President’s personal attorneys and the agency. 

One of them, dated on November 8th, has communication between Gary Stern, who was the General Counsel of NAR, and Bob Bauer, the President’s attorney, in which it references boxes in a Boston office. 

It says, “Pat…” — this is to Pat Moore, who’s the President’s personal lawyer — “Pat, we would like to pick up the boxes that are in your Boston office and move them to the JFK Library.”  Any explanation as to what boxes were doing in a Boston office and how this relates to this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as you just mentioned, it’s — it just broke — or the report just came out while we were in the middle of a briefing.  So, I can’t speak to it from here because I just don’t know what you’re — you’re speaking to. 

But I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office to get more specifics or get you an answer there.

Q    Is it new to you, the idea that boxes —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I am —

Q    — would be —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I am learning about this as you are — as you were asking the question.  So, I’m certainly not going to speak to it from here. 

Go ahead, Andrea. 

Q    Karine, on the President’s meeting today with the governors.  He said during this meeting that Republicans are trying to close off the possibility of cutting defense spending and that that leaves only a very few options. 

You know, what is the President’s view on how to get to the $2 trillion in cuts that he has outlined in the State of the Union Address?  What is the best way to get there?  And does he rule out the possibility of cutting, for instance, defense spending?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first and foremost, so folks know: March 9th, the President is going to be putting out his budget.  We have asked the House, in Congress — the Republican House to put out their budget — a more robust — right? — budget so we know exactly what it is that they are putting forth, the cuts that they want to put forth, and so that we can see — not just us, but the American people can see.

As you just mentioned, the President said in his State of the Union Address that he was going to cut the deficit by $2 trillion over a decade.  I’m not going to get ahead of what the President is going to actually — the details or the specifics in his budget.  Certainly, once we put that out on March 9th, you’ll have — you’ll be able to peruse and see exactly what the President is laying out.  I’m just not going to get ahead of that.

But I also want to add — and I’ve said this many times before; you’ve heard the President say this as well — this is a President — for the first two years, he was able to cut the deficit by $1.7 trillion.  He takes his fiscal responsibility very seriously.  And he is going to continue to find ways to build an economy that doesn’t leave anybody behind but also is fiscally responsible, as I just mentioned.

Go ahead.

Q    He also said he was — did not believe that Republicans would ultimately make good their threat on — to hold the debt ceiling extension — or expansion — hostage.  What leads him to believe that?  I mean, has he had subsequent conversations with other Republicans since his meeting with McCarthy?  And when — when will he meet again with McCarthy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any conversations or meetings to preview for you at this time.  As you know, the meeting that he had with Speaker McCarthy not too long ago was respectful, it was productive.  You saw us put a readout, and you heard from the Speaker himself when he was out at the sticks after the meeting.

Look, it’s pretty simple, and it’s pretty straightforward.  We believe that Congress has a constitutional duty to get this done, to lift the debt ceiling.  We’ve been saying that, and they should do it without conditions.  That hasn’t changed.  They did it three times with the last President.  You’ve heard me say the number 78 many times in this briefing room.  That’s how many times that they have been able to get this done since 1960.  That doesn’t change. 

It should be done in a bipartisan way.  And the President will continue to call for that.  And that’s what — they’ve done it before, and that’s what he believes they should be doing it again.

Q    He just sounded more optimistic today, and I’m wondering why.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, this is a President who’s always optimistic.  He — this is a President who believes in optimism.  As you know, he says it many times when he speaks in front of the American people.  And so, that is not surprising. 

You’ve heard me say that about him in describing even his speech in — for the State of the Union, that you would hear some optimism.  So, of course, he’s going to be optimistic about it.

Go ahead.

Q    Just particularly given Lula’s visit here this afternoon, is there any kind of update on the possibility of expelling Bolsonaro from the U.S.?  Does the President personally believe that he should be allowed to remain here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As I’ve said before, we’ve never — we had not received any — any type of request in that — in that vein.  I’m not going to get ahead of a meeting that’s going to happen very, very shortly.  You guys are all — have to — have to leave to — for the pool spray that’s going to happen in the Oval Office.  So, I’m not going to get ahead.

The Pre- — President Lula is going to go to the sticks right after the bilat, I believe, and take — take many questions from many of you.  So, I’m certainly not going to get ahead of what’s going to come up in that meeting or what the agenda might be.  I think the Admiral did a good job laying out our expectations, but I will let President Lula speak to that.

Q    Karine, we’re now getting told we need to gather.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    His meeting with the governors today — do you know whether or how much the issue of COVID and the expiration of the public health emergency order, how much that came up, whether the governors feel confident that the states are ready for that to happen?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can’t speak to that.  I haven’t downloaded with what came up in that meeting.  But what I can say is the President looked forward — very much looked forward to talking to the governors.  He’s going to continue the conversation and continue to see them between today and tomorrow. 

And they’ve been great partners with us — with all of the different historical pieces of legislation that we have been able to get done and also that they’re seeing the effects of in their own state.

Okay, I’ll see you guys on Monday.  Thank you, everybody.

3:15 P.M. EST

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/02/10/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-national-security-council-coordinator-for-strategic-communications-john-kirby-february-10-2023/