Aboard Air Force One
En Route Ramstein Air Base, Germany
(September 7, 2023)
7:06 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, everybody.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Well, thank you for joining us on our trip to New Delhi, India, where we’re going to be headed to the G20, as you all know.
As you see to my right, we have our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who is happy to take your questions.
MR. SULLIVAN: Hi, everyone. Before I take your questions, I’m going to repeat everything I said in the press briefing room — (laughter) — three days ago.
All right, I will give you the mercy of not doing that. I’ll just say: As we head into the G20, we’re looking forward to an opportunity to engage on a range of what we think are really significant issues facing all of the major economies of the world. And that goes from climate, to energy security, to food security, to global macroeconomic stability, to being able to deliver public goods to people everywhere through ambitious initiatives like the World Bank reform initiative that President Biden has been working on. And so, we think this will be a — an important milestone moment for global cooperation at a critical time.
One thing I would note, because I got the question a couple of times in the press briefing room about China and, you know, the fact that Xi Jinping is not coming — whether they would play spoiler and so forth. I’m not going to handicap what will happen at this summit in that regard.
But I would point out that if you look at the hosts of the G20 over the next few years: We have India this year, Brazil next year, South Africa the following year, and then the United States. And I think, along with those three country — countries — India, Brazil, and South Africa — the U.S. has a deep stake in stewarding the G20 and making sure that it remains a central mechanism for global coordination on all the major challenges we face.
And I think, over the course of the weekend, you’ll see opportunities for us to reflect that.
The other thing I would say is that, tomorrow, the President will be meeting with Prime Minister Modi, and it will be an opportunity to follow up on Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the United States. And we will see meaningful progress on a number of issues, including the GE jet engine issue, the MQ-9 Reapers, on 5G/6G, on collaboration on critical and emerging technologies, and progress also in the civil nuclear area as well.
So, we will mark all of that progress when the two of them meet tomorrow, which shows the breadth of the relationship between our countries.
Of course, President Biden will also speak on critical, fundamental values that the United States stands for, as he does in all of his engagements. And then, he’ll look forward to seeing a number of other leaders on the margins of the G20 over the weekend before we head off to Vietnam.
So, let me leave it at that, and I’d be happy to take your questions.
Q Jake, on the fundamental values question with Modi, there was a moment at the State visit when they were standing next to each other, and the President, you know, made very clear that press, religious, and other fundamental freedoms had to be a core part of both of these democracies.
They’ve had, I think, roughly at least a dozen engagements — virtual, in-person, and otherwise — now. Can you offer an assessment of how much is that message resonating? I know you say he brings it up every time with every one of these leaders. But in the case of Modi, how much is that message resonating?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, I can’t characterize another leader’s perspective, and I’m not here to issue scorecards. What President Biden said when he was standing at the State visit earlier this year and what he will say in every significant leader engagement is what he believes and what the United States believes and what an American president stands for.
That’s our responsibility. That’s what we do on behalf of our national values, who we are as a people, who we are as Americans. That’s what we’ll keep doing, and I’ll leave the scorekeeping to others.
Q Can I ask you a —
Q Oh, go ahead.
Q Can I ask you about some of the bilats? Can you confirm that the President will be, indeed, meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman?
MR. SULLIVAN: No, I can’t confirm any bilats. And, to be honest with you, I think you will not see, because of the way the schedule is structured, a significant number of formal engagements with other leaders. I think most of the work that he’s going to do with a number of significant heads of state and government over the course of the 48 hours he’s in Delhi will be more informal, on the margins, not formal sit-down bilats.
So, I don’t — I don’t have any bilats to announce today.
Q Jake, quick question: We understand that the — the U.S. is planning to announce a major rail deal with India and the Arab world — UAE, Saudi — to connect both the Gulf countries and Arab countries with this major railway network. And we were wondering if you can confirm that for us and speak to its significance. We understand it’s one of the biggest deliverables out of the summit.
MR. SULLIVAN: I can’t confirm anything for you tonight. I’ve seen those reports as well.
What I can tell you is this is an initiative that we have invested effort into with our partners. We believe that connectivity from India, across the Middle East, to Europe is incredibly important and will bring a significant number of economic benefits, as well as strategic benefits, to all of the countries involved.
But where things land with respect to any potential announcements this weekend, as opposed to down the line, I can’t say tonight.
Q Jake, going back to Modi and American values, our understanding is that press access to the bilat will be pretty limited, if not nonexistent. Can you detail what, from the U.S. side, you guys are doing to press for press access and why Biden would meet with Modi if there are no reporters allowed to participate in a pool spray or something like that?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, I mean, the President has private meetings with other heads of state where in the room are the teams and not the press. Secondly, we will of course provide a readout of the meetings so that you have the opportunity to understand what was discussed.
And, third, we have a significant number of issues that we need to deal with with India, both issues that present opportunities for substantial cooperation and our mutual interest and issues where we need to work through differences in perspective. So, the President will take the opportunity to do that.
This meeting will be taking place at the Prime Minister’s residence. So, it is unusual in that respect. This is not your typical bilateral visit to India with meetings taking place in the Prime Minister’s office and an entire program. This is the host of the G20 hosting a significant number of leaders, doing so in his home, and he has set out the protocols he’s set out.
Now, obviously, we in the U.S. government work hard to ensure and obtain access for U.S. journalists to everything the President does. I’ll let Karine detail all the steps we’re taking. But many of us at very senior levels have been significantly involved in this, but that doesn’t always yield a particular journalist standing in a particular pool spray.
What we can pledge to you is what’s in our control, which is ensuring that we are transparent and comprehensive in our readout of what the two leaders discussed, which we will.
Q Has there been an instance where President Biden, as president, has had a bilateral meeting without a pool spray that — that you can think of?
MR. SULLIVAN: You know, I think at multilateral meetings, there have been times he’s gone and sat down with foreign leaders. In fact, I can think of instances where I’ve snapped photos because it’s just been me in the room with the foreign leader and President Biden.
Because of the dynamic nature of these multilateral summits, press — press access issues tend to be different than they are in typical bilateral fashion. And so, that’s why I think you find this circumstance different from previous instances where the President and Prime Minister Modi have stood before the press.
And I would also point out — I think it was Aamer who said they’ve met a dozen times. I didn’t even realize that. But, I mean, to me, this is not really a reflection of either the U.S.-India relationship or some larger question of press access.
This particular — this is a — a circumstance-based issue, not some larger issue. Because, obviously, you’ve had access to bilaterals between the two. They’ve had press conferences, including the unusual circumstance of a press conference in which Prime Minister Modi took questions. So, that’s how we see it.
We consider this a serious issue. You guys have raised it with us. We take that extremely seriously. I personally take it extremely seriously. We are doing what we can, but at the end of the day, we will have to kind of work through the parameters and protocols of these meetings in coordination and consultation with the host and, in particular, with the host at his personal residence.
Q Did you say the request was made, though? Did you guys ask for a pool spray at this particular event, and you were told no?
MR. SULLIVAN: Of course. We ask for pool sprays — we spend our lives asking —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Seriously.
MR. SULLIVAN: — for pool sprays and —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All the time guys. All the time.
MR. SULLIVAN: — other things, of course. Of course.
Q Can I ask you about China? You mentioned a few times that you’ve been asked about President Xi not being there. Can you describe, though, by his absence, how that changes at all the dynamic or the tenor? Does it make the idea of a joint communiqué — specifically some language on Ukraine — easier, stronger for you all? I mean, it must change something.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, our coordinators have been working all day and all night the last few days on the joint statement. We come into this, the United States, with immense goodwill towards producing consensus. And in that, we bring a spirit of compromise to a lot of the different issues that are contentious so that we can find a text that everybody can live with.
I’m not going to personally characterize the Chinese position in the room or the Russian position in the room. I think I’d ask you to go ask around about that.
What I will say is that, even though the leader is not going to be there, their premier will, the entire Chinese team is engaged, their Sherpa or their coordinator is engaged. So, I can’t say that I have personally seen or heard about a fundamental shift in their posture because President Xi isn’t there.
But there’s still some distance to travel before there is a final communiqué re- — released to the public or agreed among the leaders, and we’ll have to see what happens.
Q Can I ask one quick follow? On President Xi, is it correct — I just want to confirm there were no meetings or calls that we are unaware of — that Biden and Xi have not spoken over the phone in any way since last year’s G20? Is that correct?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we’ve had a number of meetings without pool sprays between President Xi and President — no, I’m — I’m joking.
Q Just checking. For a second, I was like, “Wah!” (Laughter.)
MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I can confirm they have not —
Q Zero communication?
MR. SULLIVAN: — spoken since — since Bali.
Q And that means zero communication between the two since last year’s G20 at that level?
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah, I mean, I hesitate to say “zero communication” only in the following sense: Obviously, we’ve seen Secretary Blinken, Secretary Yellen, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Raimondo all travel. I’ve met with my counterpart. In those meetings, we are speaking on behalf of our leaders, frequently, to one another.
So, the idea that there’s been no communication, I think, is — is kind of an — could be a misnomer.
But the two of them have not had a telephone call or a meeting since then.
Q Jake, on — you mentioned second — Secretary Raimondo’s trip to China. The Chinese are reportedly considering blocking the sale of iPhones not only to government agencies, but also state-owned and -operated corporations in China. The whole point of that trip was to kind of open up commerce between the countries.
Is this a concerning development for you guys? Is it something that you’re going to raise? Is it something that you’d like the Chinese to reconsider?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, without accepting the premise that that was the whole point of the trip, because I think Secretary Raimondo did a remarkable job of laying out what she was trying to accomplish — which is about deepening the economic relationship, but also about explaining what de-risking means and why it is a relevant element of our policy and why national security is a feature of the relationship between the U.S. and China, including the economic relationship.
But on the particular question of Apple phones, I’ve seen the reports. I think this is more of a question for the PRC — what’s motivating them, what the scope of this will be, and what they think the net effect of that will be — than it is a question for the U.S. government.
Q Are you going to raise it in your talks with the Chinese at all?
MR. SULLIVAN: I mean, I don’t have plans to have a near-term conversation with the PRC on this. And we’ve only seen the reports, so we’ll see how things play out.
Q Can I —
Q A quick follow-up on China.
Sorry. Go ahead.
Q Well, I was just going to follow up on Huawei. I know you were asked about it on Tuesday. You said you needed more time to evaluate the situation. Is there any update? Or if there’s not, can you walk us through what the timeline is for you guys to investigate this, what method you’ll be using to investigate it, and how we can kind of see that proceeding?
MR. SULLIVAN: First, this is largely an issue within the competence of the regulatory authorities and the agencies, like the Commerce Department, for example.
Second, there’s a number of different methods to try to, sort of, come to an understanding of what exactly it is that we’re dealing with here. All I will say is — and I said a version of this when I was at the podium on Tuesday: We’re committed to the small-yard, high-fence proposition. We are committed to ensuring that the fence — where it exists — is patrolled effectively, and we will continue to do that.
And then, the question of timeline on this — that was Tuesday; today is Thursday — I can’t give you an exact number of days, but this is not going to be months down the road. We’re going to want to look at this carefully, consult with our partners, get a clearer sense of what we’re looking at, and then we’ll make decisions accordingly. And we’ll do so in the context of the totality of our approach, not any one particular smartphone or chip.
Q Are you confident, though, that there hasn’t been too much leeway given already at this point, considering the breakthrough that — that we think we’ve seen?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’m confident in our approach. I’m confident that that approach is built on a set of principles, and then we need to make updates to the parameters of our rules as we go forward. And I mean that as a generic statement, not with respect to this particular — this particular news report or this particular account.
I’m confident of our approach, and I think it is built to be able to inquire as to what the state of play is with respect to technology and to make adjustments as necessary.
Q A quick follow-up on China, Jake. We understand the U.S. is planning to send a very strong message on the issue of debt distress, and, you know, we’ve heard you talk about the World Bank. But in terms of, sort of, concrete proposals of foreign relief for these countries, what are you planning to offer at this summit? And if you can talk a little bit about that.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, this is not a summit to negotiate with particular distressed countries, and each country requires its own workout according to its own terms.
But what we are going to underscore at the summit is that there is a fairly broad-base consensus about the shape of the solution for many countries. And we just ma- — need to make sure that all countries, including the PRC, get on board with that.
Q You had mentioned a joint — sorry.
Q Jake, can you give us a read- — a bit of readout about your meeting with the Senate leadership today on the Ukraine supplemental? Was there any kind of openness from McConnell and the GOP to, you know, keeping that in there?
MR. SULLIVAN: It was a very substantive meeting. The senators have a lot of specific questions about the policy, the state of play in Ukraine. They had constructive suggestions for how we should proceed on multiple dimensions of the policy.
And the most striking feature was the strong bipartisan support for standing with Ukraine, for resourcing Ukraine, and for ensuring that America’s commitment to Ukraine does not flag.
I felt that coming from Republicans as well as Democrats, from multiple different elements of leadership and committee chairs on both sides of the aisle.
And I’m not going to characterize any individual senator’s perspective because that’d be, you know, violating the trust of the private meeting, but I think I’m on solid ground saying that there was strong bipartisan commitment on the Senate side to support Ukraine.
And with respect to the House, I’ll have a chance to go see both Republicans and Democrats in the House next week.
Q Are you —
Q Can I follow — just on that real — I’m sorry.
Q Oh, no, I was just — are you — after that meeting, are you confident that it would still be part of the supplemental, or does it seem like maybe it would be pulled out? How are those conversations?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, I think I said at the podium on Tuesday that I’m confident that we will continue to get the resources we need for Ukraine. I continue to believe that, in the end, that will be the case. And nothing about today made me change that view.
Q Does that noise, though, from the House GOP — is that unhelpful going into a major summit like this when you’re trying to build consensus?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think — and I’ve said this before in other contexts, where our democracy has displayed different points of view on different issues we’re dealing with — the leaders who are at this G20 are sophisticated actors. They’re pols — whether they’re Democrats or autocrats, they know that there is sausage-making and there’s debate and there’s back-and-forth and toing-and-froing on issues. So, no, I don’t think it — it puts us in a problematic position heading into this.
Q You mentioned a joint statement a bit ago. Given just how difficult it was to come to consensus a year ago in Bali, is the view of the United States still that you’re going to have some joint statement out of this G20?
MR. SULLIVAN: I will not make a prediction on that.
I will say that the United States is ready to do our part to deliver a joint statement, and we think there is a joint statement to be had. And the question is: Will every country step up, be responsible, be constructive? If the answer to that is yes, then we will get a joint statement. But it’s too soon to tell.
Q I have a quick question on Saudi, Jake. We understand the White House has now had several meetings with Israeli and Saudi leaders. And wondering to what extent is a framework — a normalization deal shaping up?
MR. SULLIVAN: Many of the elements of a pathway towards normalization are now on the table. We don’t have a formal framework. We don’t have the terms, you know, ready to be signed. There’s still work to do. And we’re working through it.
But I think there’s a broad understanding of many of the key elements, and the specifics require an incredible amount of legwork, discipline, rigor. And all of the stakeholders in this are applying that as we speak.
Q So, was there — I mean, would you characterize the recent meetings as progress?
MR. SULLIVAN: I would characterize them as constructive.
Q Jake, on the —
Q Do you think —
Q — on the communiqué, obviously, one stumbling block is Ukraine. But putting that one aside, the other seems to be climate — where oil-producing countries want a certain language, while others are being more ambitious. And there also seems to be an effort by China to tie access to technology to climate change language.
Can you kind of talk through it — where you feel like those talks are, from the U.S. perspective, right now and what you think of the Chinese idea?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think the idea of holding climate hostage to a particular country’s priority on some totally separate issue is not the height of responsibility.
We have a climate crisis. We should deal with climate on its own terms. It should not be a source of leverage. It should be a source of urgency for countries to actually come to the table and try and solve it.
And I’ve said many times that the PRC’s effort to link climate to America’s actions on other issues is not a game we are going to play, and that’s true in the G20 context as well. And I believe that that is true of other countries’ view, too; they do not want climate held hostage.
Q Jake, another on China. What is your reaction to this Wall Street Journal report that said Chinese nationals posing and [as] tourists are trying to get access to military installations?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, one of the things about that report is it indicated this has been a longstanding issue that very much pre- — pre-dates our administration. Look, we take the security of our installations extremely seriously against any form of threat, and we will continue to do that.
And I work with DOJ and the DOD — and “I” meaning in my capacity on the National Security Council — with DOJ and DOD to ensure that we have the proper safeguards in place, and we will continue to do that as we go forward.
Q Will this be brought up at the — at the meeting this weekend?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we don’t have a plan for the President to engage with the Chinese premier this weekend at this time.
Q You think —
Q Is there any disappointment —
MR. SULLIVAN: This will be the last one.
Q Is there any disappointment that Zelenskyy wasn’t invited to address this summit?
MR. SULLIVAN: Look, from our perspective, anytime President Zelenskyy gets the opportunity to address a body, a group is a good thing. We believe that about the G20. He addressed it last year.
But President Zelenskyy has been relentless in his capacity to engage all of the leaders who are seated at the table. And we also saw in Jeddah, not long ago, many of the key countries of the G20, including from the Global South, sit with Ukrainians in the same room to talk through the principles of a just and durable peace, including sovereignty and territorial integrity.
So, I feel good about where we are, although the U.S. view is very much that having Zelenskyy have a role in this G20 would be a good thing.
Q Jake, can I ask you one quick thing on Vietnam? I know that there are expectations that Vietnam will upgrade its formal relationship status with the U.S. Can you confirm that or offer us any clarity on the record here?
MR. SULLIVAN: I will be happy to talk to you on the record about Vietnam in, like, 36 hours. (Laughter.)
Thank you, guys.
Q Thanks, Jake.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Jake. I appreciate it.
All right. Do you guys want to still hear from me?
Q I got one for you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right, I do have a couple of things at the top. Here we go.
So, today, the President nominated Michael Whitaker to serve as the next FAA Administrator. I know not such big news, but it happened today. Whitaker has over 30 years of aviation experience and broad support from labor unions and industry stakeholders.
Since day one, the administration has taken action to increase air travel safety, including hiring 1,500 new air traffic controllers and — in 2023 — and — well, in 2023 and leading 90 runway safety action team meetings at airports across the country to improve safety.
We urge Congress to swiftly confirm Mike Whitaker to lead the FAA.
On a similar note, the Senate has confirmed all three of the President’s Federal Reserve nominees on a bipartisan basis.
In the past year, inflation come — came down by around two thirds, while the job market has — has remained historically strong, and we are confident that Dr. Jefferson, Dr. Cook, and Dr. Kugler will help continue this progress.
One last thing here on — on the tropical storm that all of us are — are keeping an eye on. As we shared a little bit earlier today — as you know, we put out a pool note on this — as part of the President’s regular briefing today — briefings today, he was also provided with the latest trajectory of Hurricane Lee. And the preparations are underway by FEMA, which has pre-deployed assets to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and is coordinating with local officials.
I do want to address one thing before I open up for questions, and this is what Jake was allud- — was asked from all of you — by all — by — by some of you — about the access for — press access for G20.
Look, as you know — and you hear us say this all the time — when it comes to — comes to free press, it is the pillar of — of our democracy, so we are doing everything that we can to make sure that you guys can cover — cover this important summit.
And so, a couple of things I do want to lay out, as — as I think Jake was alluding to — a couple of things that — key points and key actions that we have — we have done in the past several days — which is Ben LaBolt, the White House Communications Director, reached out to his counterpart. Jake Sullivan, who is — as you know, you just heard from him — our National Security Advisor, reached out to his counterpart as well.
John Finer and Kurt Campbell from the National Security — National Sec- — the National Security Advisor [National Security Council] also reached out to their counterparts. The G7 [G20] Sherpa team pressed their counterparts. State mobilized our ambassador and our embassy. This was a days-long process that we have engaged in, and we will continue to engage, you know, while we are there.
So, this is, as you know, incredibly important to us. We know how important it is for all of you to cover what the President is doing, especially abroad, and so we are — we are doing our darndest, doing our best to do everything that we can to get you access.
As you heard from — from Jake, it — you know, it’s sometimes at these summits — and I know — Justin, you’ve been around for some time now — I’m not — not aging you at — at all. But you have been around for some time now. (Laughter.) And you’ve seen this. You see how other presidents have had to — have to deal with these types of summits. So, this is not new. This is something that any and every administration has to deal with.
And I just wanted to lay out very clearly as to all of the different senior leadership who have been out there talking to their counterpart — -parts and making — making it very clear that we want our press to make sure to be able to — to be there and to be — to — to see the interaction that our President has.
With that, Aamer.
Q That was a rough analysis of Justin’s aging there, I’d say. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sure he’s thrilled. I’m sure he’s thrilled. I’m sure I’ll hear about it.
Q After you just itemized all these very senior people, explaining how important this is to this administration, what does it say, like, that, you know, there isn’t a ton of access? Is the President concerned that after all his most senior people are raising concerns about this, the Indians just don’t seem to care?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to be really fair. We have seen this before in these summits. Let’s be very clear here. This is not an unusual thing. This happens. We kind of have these conversations with many other — with many — at many other summits. I think you guys know this very well. So this is not unusual.
I’m just going to, like, kind of refer to what Jake laid out and let —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — let the national security speak to — speak to those pieces.
But, look, what I — my job is and what I’m trying to do is to share with you and all of you that we have been very much all hands on deck in trying to make this happen. And I know — and I know some of you know that personally, how much we have worked to make sure that people — that the press gets access to what the President is doing.
And we think he believes — obviously, we work on behalf of the President — he believes it’s incredibly important.
As I just stated at the top, you know, free — the free press is the — is the pillar of our democracy. We believe that wholeheartedly. And you’ve heard that from the President. You’ve heard —
Q I could — and I’m just getting at we’re obviously frustrated.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.
Q Does this — does this — does it frustrate the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President believes the free press is the pillar of our democracy. Obviously, yes. If we are — I just listed one, two, three, four, five, six, seven — right? — seven senior people that you all know — you know the names — who have been out there the past couple of days dealing with their counterparts.
And not — not even — I think not even including the folks on the ground as part of the G20 Sherpa. So, yes, of course, we are all trying to do our best at — at the behest of the President — right? — to get this done. And so, we’re going to keep working on it.
Q Karine, what explanation —
Q This issue specifically about the — the access issue sort of speaks broadly to issues around press freedom, even in India, and humanitarian issues, you know, rights for minorities. I know some of that was raised when the Prime Minister visited the United States. But how much emphasis is the President going to place on some of these things again during this specific bilateral?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you just stated, the President raised it in the last — in the last meeting that they had, which was the State dinner, as you just referenced to. I mean, look, I don’t think there’s a better way to show how committed we — we were or we are than the press conference that the President held with the Prime Minister in the United States when the Prime Minister was visiting.
That is something that we were — we wanted to make sure that happened and that you hear directly from both leaders. And so, you know, that was an important, critical moment.
Look, I’m not going to get into what’s going to come up in the conversation in this bilat. Certainly, we will have a readout and have more to share. But the President never, never fails to raise the importance of human rights, and you’ve heard us say this over and over again, and it has come up with multiple leaders, including the Prime Minister, as you just stated, in the last — in the last conversation or the last bilat — important bilat that they’ve had.
Look, guys, we are doing everything that we can to — to make sure that there is access. And — and I think we’ve proven that over — over multiple summits and over even the last couple of days with this upcoming trip as we’re headed to G20.
Q Was the decision to move the press conference from India to Hanoi a result of issues around press freedom and press access in India?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I wouldn’t go that far. I think it’s just that it was easier — it was a logistical piece. It’s easier to do — it was just easier to do it in Vietnam. As you know, when the G- — these types of summits happen, the G20 summits happen, it is all-consuming, all hands on deck. And it was just logistically easier to do it there.
And it wouldn’t — it wouldn’t have changed anything because it would have just been the President doing a solo press conference. So, instead of doing it in — in India, he’s going to be doing it in — in Hanoi.
There’s really — it wouldn’t — that doesn’t change anything at all. It wasn’t like he was going to do a mul- — multilateral or bilateral press conference.
Q Karine, you outlined the number of officials who have been in touch and reached out on this issue of press access. What is the explanation or the justification that the Indians are giving?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that’s a good question. I am not — I am not — I have not — I haven’t part of those conversations. I can’t tell you what they’re saying on the other side. What I can share — and, honestly, to be quite honest, it’s for them to speak to.
What we — what I can say is we have reached out, we have made the request multiple times at different pressure points, if you will — at an NSC level, comms level. The folks on the ground who are doing, you know — you know, a lot of hard work on the ground to get — to make sure that this trip — not just for the President, but for all of you; all of us — is smooth. And as I mentioned, the G20 Sherpa team.
And so, it’s been happening. We’ve been doing the work. I mean, I would leave it to — I would leave it to the Indian government to speak for themselves on — on the specific question you just asked.
Q Jumping forward in time a little bit, can you flesh out a little more about how the President plans to spend 9/11 in Alaska?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just a couple of just high-level stuff here. First, on 9/11, look, the President is going to mark the anniversary of the September 11th attacks this year in Alaska, as you just mentioned, with — with service members and their families.
And, as he does every year, as he’s done the — every year, he plans to honor the lives lost and the families and loved ones who still feel the pain of the terrible day. This is something he feels is very important to do. We can only imagine the heartbreak and the pain that the 9/11 families have felt every day for the past 22 years.
So, I know the families have — have certain- — certainly been on this — on his mind recent- — in recent days, and they will continue be on — to be on his mind as we approach. The anniversary, as you know, is coming up on Monday.
Certainly, if we have more to share, we will do that.
Q Do you know, will he meet with anyone who has been–
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — personally impacted by 9/11 in Alaska?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sorry?
Q Will he be meeting with anyone who was personally impacted —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I see your question. We’ll have more to share, but we’ll definitely be meeting with the service members and their families, which he believes is incredibly important. We’ll certainly have more to share as we get closer to Monday.
Q On the issue of press access, obviously the most ambitious step that would be taken would be for the President not to meet if there is not press access. Is that something that’s being considered at all? It sounds like no, but —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, Jake just was essentially asked this question, so I certainly don’t have more to share beyond what Jake just shared.
Look, here’s the thing. We will continue to do everything that we can for all of you to have press access. I think we have proven that in — in multiple — in multiple instances, in multiple summits.
As I mentioned, the last State dinner with India, we made that happen, made a press conference happen. And — and so, that will continue.
And, look, these meetings are incredibly important. I think the first question — one of the first questions Jake got was on this, and he talked about the importance of deepening this relationship and what it means and having these types of multilateral conversations, especially at these big summits.
And so, that’s going to — that’s going to continue. What we have — we’ll continue to ask for press access, yes, absolutely. Doesn’t shy — it doesn’t stop us from making sure that we’re asking for what we believe is important, not just for you, but for the American people to — for you all to — to report on what you’re seeing and what this President is doing.
And so, I’m just not going to go beyond — I mean, Jake just kind — addressed this moments ago.
Q Karine, I also wanted to ask real quick about your favorite topic, which is the President’s testing cadence. He obviously tested negative for multiple days here. Do you have a sense at all on whether he’ll cont- — is there a need to have him continue testing as he arrives at the G20? And I assume they’ll still mask, as you indicated the other day.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t have any update to the protocols to share with you at this time. As you know, the President tested — I think just to put it in — all into context — right? — he tested negative on Monday; negative on Tuesday; negative on Wednesday; negative today, which is actually very, very good, and has no symptoms.
All of these decisions — and as I’ve said multiple times — is going to be in close consultation with his physician. I don’t have anything else to share, but we’ve been — you know, we’ve shared when he’s tested. He’s been — he’s tested four times, been negative, and has no symptoms.
I think that’s — that’s a good thing.
Q Karine, just to clarify. So, at this time, there are — there’s no anticipation of the possibility of bilats with other world leaders during the G20? And if — and if there are, would — you know, would we be able to pool that since it would be not with an Indian (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — so, Jake just answered that question. He said that it will be — basically, he said it will be very difficult to do these types of bilateral, formal meetings at the G20 the way that — he said the way it’s structured, the way it’s scheduled at this G20. So, he’s not anticipating that to happen.
And so, that’s what, you know, Jake Sullivan said, and so I’m just repeating what he said. And if that were to change, of course we will do everything that we can to let you all know and certainly to try and provide access. But he just stated that he didn’t think that was going to — to be happening because of the structure of this particular summit.
Q A couple quick eco ones. So, first, you know, we might not all be Vogue stars, but I don’t know if I’m AARP Magazine yet. (Laughter.) You know, it’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What did I tell you? I told you he would come back. I told you I would get it back. I told you.
Q Two on the economy, though. One is retail — retail sales for the last month have been kind of sharply down. There are obviously strong economic indicators, but I’m wondering if this at all changes your guys’ economic forecast. Thoughts about a possible recession? Any — any signs of worry?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I mean, look — and I know this question comes up often. You know, we’ve seen those — that data point on retails before.
Look, you know, we feel that the economy is — is heading to a slow, stable growth, which is what we’ve been saying for some time. And the data points of, like, seeing the GDP; the data points of jobs created, of wages going up, unemployment being under 4 percent, and that continuing to happen and also inflation moderating — I think that shows — all the indicators.
And also, you know, economics experts have said this — that, you know, recession is very much unlikely. So, we don’t see ourselves headed to a recession. We see that the work that this President is doing, the economic policies that he’s put forward is actually helping here and leading us into, again, a slow, steady growth into that transition.
And so, I think that’s what’s really important.
Q Former President Trump issued a statement on the UAW and the negotiations, and encouraged them to basically oppose the President’s plan. I wanted to give you a chance to respond to his comments on electric cars, but also just ask if you have any update on how the administration in the last day or so has been engaged on this issue.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. When it comes to the former President, want to be very careful because he’s also a candidate. So, I want to be careful how to respond here and not speak to anything that’s related to G20 — I mean — G20; I just said G20 — 2024.
But, you know, as it relates to IRA (inaudible), just a couple of things that I want to say. Look, the administration is always committed to taking every legal and appropriate step to ensure federal investments and leading to good-paying union jobs. Right?
And I think that is something that the President has led with in almost all of his pieces of legislation, including, in particular, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
And so, a couple of things. It’s providing $12 billion through Inflation Reduction Act to convert existing auto plants into EV plants while retaining existing workers and collect- — collective bargaining agreements. Very important.
And this is something that — this is something that Shawn Fain has actually lifted up and praised. This particular piece is implementing tax incentives and the Inflation Reduction Act for clean energy companies to pay their workers the prevailing wage and hire registered apprentices, including Buy America requirements in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
So, there are things in this — these — there are these provisions in both of these bills that are so (inaudible) — so important and that is actually going to make a difference for unions — right?; going to make a difference for workers; going to make a difference for Americans. And so, things that have historically never been done before.
And so, the Pre- — the President is proud of these two pieces of legislation. He has done more as — you know, as the President that is passing these historic legislation than any — any his- — any — (inaudible) — any past — any modern-day presidents.
And look, I’ll say this last thing. You know, in the last administration, we kept on hearing about “Infrastructure Week,” “Infrastructure Week,” with nothing to show for it. And here, this President has made Infrastructure Decade; you’ve heard him say that. And he actually has something to show for it.
And so, just look at that. And I think that’s what matters. And that is my response.
Q Quick — quick follow-up on the UAW, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Obviously, the President made those remarks over Labor Day, saying he doesn’t think the union is going to strike. Shawn Fain said, “He knows something that we don’t.” You said the President said that because he’s being an optimist.
Has the President spoken to the UAW president since? Have they had any communication? And is he just currently being updated on this by Gene and Julie? Does he have any direct lines of communications open with other labor leaders who are — I mean, I would imagine Liz Shuler is involved.
You know, I mean, there are other labor leaders who have to be involved in this. Can you give us some sense of what that is?
And what is Gene — what are the updates, you know, that Gene is offering the President look like? Because we really haven’t heard anything other than he’s — he’s there to monitor and make sure people are at the table.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I will remind you that the President — the President sat down, spoke, met with the union and folks from — who put together — who got done the West Coast port, right?
And one of the reasons that was so important to highlight that — what we saw the President do — is because it showed that collective bargaining worked. It shows that when two sides come together and have that conversation, it works.
And so, I just want to reiterate the importance of that happening. We saw that with UPS and the Teamsters, and we saw that many other times as well under this President during — well, during this President’s tenure.
And so, again, this is a President that believes in collective bargaining. We’ve seen it work in some of the most contentious situations. We’ve seen it work.
Look, the President is an optimist. He is going to con- — encourage both sides to continue to talk.
As you mentioned, Gene Sperling has been kind of our coordinator, our point person. The President is getting briefed by his senior advisors, by Gene Sperling, by Julie Su. And Julie Su did amazing work with the West cort- — with the West Coast — pardon me, West Coast por- — port.
And so, we have an excellent team that is — that is doing — that is monitoring this, having these conversations, or staying close — basically staying in close touch. And I think that’s important.
Again, collective bargaining works. We’ve seen it work a few times in the past two years.
I’m losing my voice, guys. Anything else before I head out?
Q About — about Eric Adams’s comments on the migrant crisis destroying New York City. Implication being there that President Biden and Washington writ large and his governor are not doing enough. Any response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. I do want to lay this down because I think it’s important.
So, we’ve been taking action to support communities across the country who are managing the arrival of migrants. And in New York — specifically to your question, Aamer — we have worked closely with officials at the state and city level to coordinate efforts and provide recommendations and identify possible efficiencies in their operations.
We have — we have provided the state and city more than $140 million dollars in federal funding through DHS just this fiscal year.
Following conversations with leaders in New York, across the country, the administration launched a first-of-its-kind national campaign for individuals who are — who were — who are work-eligible but have not yet applied to work authorization with information on how to apply to employment authorization. Hundreds of thousands of MS- — MSMs — sorry, SMN — SMSs and emails have been sent in — in English, in Spanish, in Haitian Creole, and many other languages to make that happen.
Only Congress can really reform. You hear us say that all the time: this broken system that has broke — been broken for the past couple of decades, this immigration system — and so, we — that — that could provide additional assistance. The President has done all that he can from his perch, but we need more, and we need Congress to act.
And just to add to one more piece of this. Today, senior — senior White House officials had another constructive conversation with Governor Hochul about the many lines of efforts that the federal government is pursuing to support New York.
So, we have had extensive conversation with — with the leaders in New York. We have been fully engaged from the White House and also DHS and other — certainly, that agency — to see how else we can help and have offered — have offered, you know, ideas on how to move forward to that. And that’s my response.
Q Is he being hyperbolic?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You would — you would have to figure — look at that for yourselves.
What I can speak to is the engagement that we have made — we have had with — with New York, whether state or local.
And I just mentioned Governor Hochul; you know that Governor Hochul was just at the White House last week. And — and we put out — we put out a statement after that; she put out a statement after that. We put out a joint statement if I — if I — if I’m remembering correctly.
And so, we’ve been in — we’ve been in touch and engaging with them on a regular basis, if not — definitely weekly if not daily.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. I’ll the last one here. Go ahead.
Q On extreme heat. So, yesterday, ERCOT — the Texas power grid — entered into emergency operations as they — the demand for power nearly surpassed the state supply because of the extreme heat. ERCOT has had to ask Texans to conserve power 10 times this summer alone. What is the federal government doing to alleviate strains on power grids as we increasingly see extreme heat over longer stretches of time?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, the — this is one of the reasons why the bipartisan infrastructure legislation was so important.
I know when Liz Sherwood-Randolph [Randall] came to the briefing room she talked about making sure that the grids are resilient and, kind of, talked through that a little bit.
What I can say is the Department — when it comes to extreme heat, in July, the President announced that NOAA will partner with universities and other institutions to improve our nation’s weather forecasts. So, that’s actually really important. And the Department of Interior is investing $150 million to support communities significantly impacted by drought in the West.
But look, again, this is why the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is so important — grids — making sure that these grids are resilient, not just in Texas. We talked about Puerto Rico, the work that we’ve done there, especially after — certainly after the last hurricane.
So, this is certainly a — an important — an important part of the provision for us in the Bipartisan Law. And we’re going to continue to work to make sure that grids are resilient, because it is important as we see extreme weather continue — continue to be an issue, especially as we see in the last couple of months.
All right, guys.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. All right. Enjoy your ride or your sleep or your rest — whichever.
7:54 P.M. EDT
Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/09/08/press-gaggle-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-national-security-advisor-jake-sullivan-en-route-ramstein-air-base-germany/