Aboard Air Force One
En Route Goldsboro, North Carolina
11:09 A.M. EDT
MS. DALTON: Well, good morning, everyone. Today, the President and First Lady are visiting North Carolina and making two stops.
First, they will visit Nash Community College in Rocky Mount to see how career-connected learning and workforce training programs are preparing students for good-paying jobs in North Carolina and nationwide that are being created as a result of the President’s Investing in America agenda.
Nash is part of a coalition of North Carolina schools that received $23.7 million from the President’s American Rescue Plan in August of 2022 to train North Carolinians for clean — clean energy careers.
The President and First Lady will hear from students at Nash who are preparing for jobs in clean energy and advanced manufacturing, jobs that require some post-secondary education but not a four-year degree. A lifelong educator, the First Lady has been a strong advocate for community colleges, career-connected learning, and pathways to good-paying jobs.
Later this evening at Fort Liberty, President Biden will sign a new executive order that directs the federal government to take nearly 20 new actions that support military families and strengthen the federal government’s ability to recruit, hire, and retain military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors.
Fort Liberty is home to the largest military spouse population among all of our military installations. The President and First Lady, as a military family themselves, recognize the resilience of military families as essential to the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our armed forces.
This is why, since day one of this administration, Dr. Biden, through her Joining Forces initiative, has worked to eliminate barriers to employment and increase economic opportunities for military families. And it’s why, alongside Dr. Biden and military-connected spouses, the President will today sign one of the most consequential executive actions ever taken to support military spouses who want to continue their careers.
After the remarks program later today, the President and First Lady will also meet privately with some military families.
And then, just a quick look at the week ahead. The President has a busy week coming up.
This weekend, he’ll remain in Washington, D.C. On Saturday, the President and First Lady will host a Pride celebration with Betty Who on the South Lawn of the White House.
On Monday morning, the President will host College Athlete Day at the White House celebrating women’s and men’s NCAA champion teams from the 2022-2023 season.
Later, the President will welcome Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, to the White House to discuss the upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. In the evening, the President will deliver remarks at a Chiefs of Mission reception in the East Room.
And on Tuesday, the President and First Lady, as you may have seen yesterday, will host a Juneteenth concert on the South Lawn. This concert will be a celebration of community, culture, and music. And the Vice President and the Second Gentleman will also attend.
Next Friday, the President will travel to Connecticut. More details forthcoming.
And on Saturday of next week, the President will travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and deliver remarks at a political rally hosted by labor leaders. Later that day, the President will travel to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where he will remain on Sunday.
Q Thanks, Olivia. Did — does the President have any reaction to the Trump indictment?
And then secondly, does the President have confidence in Attorney General Garland and Jack Smith to oversee this case?
MS. DALTON: We are just not going to comment on this case and would refer you to the DOJ, which runs its criminal investigations independently.
Q Sorry, quickly, just to follow up on that, I know you don’t want to comment on the case, but what does the White House tell Republican critics who are now increasingly saying the DOJ has become politicized?
MS. DALTON: Look, this is a President who respects the rule of law and has said that since day one. That’s precisely why we’re not commenting here. He believes in respecting the independence of the DOJ and protecting the integrity of their processes. And that’s, again, why we’ll leave it there.
Q I have a follow-up on that. What do you say to concerns the Trump indictment is bad for the U.S. reputation around the world?
MS. DALTON: Look, the rule of law is a bedrock principle of our democracy, and we’re going to respect that. And we’re just not going to have comment on this today.
Q Olivia, Republicans are charging that the timing is suspicious on the indictment because of those Burisma FBI documents coming out the same day. Can you at least comment on whether there was any kind of coordination between the DOJ and the White House on the indictment?
MS. DALTON: Again, we’re not going to comment on this. I will tell you, though, that — and confirm, as we’ve said overnight, that the President, senior staff found out just like everybody else last night. No advance knowledge that this was coming. Found out from news reports, just like everybody else across America.
Q Olivia, are there preparations underway to respond to possible demonstrations around the indictment of the President?
MS. DALTON: Look, we’re always prepared. I don’t have anything specific to share with you on that. And truly, beyond this, I just don’t have any comment.
Q Have you been in touch with local authorities in Miami at all about —
MS. DALTON: I don’t have anything to share specifically on this at this time.
Q Olivia, a question on climate change. Several Democrats are calling for the President to declare a climate emergency. Is he reconsidering that?
MS. DALTON: I don’t have any new action for you — to announce for you today with respect to that, but I would just point out that the President has launched the most aggressive and ambitious climate agenda of any President in history. And he just successfully protected the most significant climate investment in our history through the — protecting the Inflation Reduction Act from Republican efforts to roll that back and cut it.
You know, certainly the wildfires that we’ve seen in Canada are evidence that we have — we face an existential crisis with respect to climate change. And the President has focused much of hi- — a significant amount of resources not just on combating climate change, but also with respect to these wildfires.
I would just point out, through the President’s Investing in America agenda, he has also dedicated resources already to date, beyond just this specific wildfire, in terms of shoring up our ability to respond to and be resilient against wildfires, like the ones we’re seeing right now.
Q Again, on the fires, to follow up, have there been any specific lessons from the Canada situation — or perhaps about some kind of early warning system for the future or how to get more resources moving across the border?
MS. DALTON: Yeah, sure. Well, I’m glad you asked about that.
Q There has been some criticism that it’s been a little flatfooted. I mean, I know it’s a big, you know, natural disaster. But —
MS. DALTON: I’m glad you asked about it. I mean, I would point out we deployed hundreds of firefighters to Canada in May, a month ago. We’ve continued to — you saw the President spoke with a Prime Minister Trudeau earlier this week, and we’ve been in touch about deploying additional — you know, we’ve got 600-plus firefighters now on the ground and additional — whatever additional technology and resources they need to support the response.
As I was just alluding to, to Akayla, the Investing in America agenda the President put forward actually has already begun to address wildfire resiliency, because we’ve seen across the country — across America, on our West Coast — a growing number of wildfires as a consequence of climate change.
And so, the President has already invested in things like satellite technologies to detect wildfires that are small as a house — right? — so that we can catch these things sooner and also invest in recruiting federal firefighters. We actually have more federal firefighters now on the payroll than ever before — more than 16,000 — and 13,000 other personnel on standby to respond.
So, we’re already taking action. We believe that’s important to continue.
Q Is Canada lacking in that department, in that case? Because —
MS. DALTON: I don’t — look, the President has been in touch with Prime Minister Trudeau about supporting the response to this wildfire, and that’s where our focus is right now on that.
Q Can you confirm that President Biden has agreed to a state visit to UK in July?
MS. DALTON: I have nothing to announce on that front yet.
Q Another — Secretary Blinken is visiting China next week — next week. Can you confirm that?
MS. DALTON: I would refer you to the State Department for any details on Secretary Blinken’s travel
Q A follow-up on the, sort of — the political fallout in terms of — after the Trump indictment. How concerned is the White House? And how are you preparing for any potential political violence after this decision?
MS. DALTON: I think I just addressed this question. I really — I’m not going to comment on the — the news overnight. And beyond that, I have nothing to announce today, but I did say that we are always prepared.
Q And a quick one on Ukraine, Olivia. Ukraine security forces have released an audio that show that a Russian sabotage group was behind the attack on the dam. I’m wondering if the U.S. has managed to verify that. And where exactly are you in the process of determining who was behind the attack?
MS. DALTON: We don’t have anything definitive or new to share with you on the dam. We’re still looking at that.
As you know — I would also just underscore that, you know, the United States, in addition to looking into this issue, was able to mobilize humanitarian assistance to support the people impacted by the dam collapse — the dam break. Within hours, we deployed USAID partners, distributed fuel, distributed drinking water, distributed water purification systems — all in support of moving people to safety and recovery efforts there.
But with respect to what you just referenced, I don’t have any updates to share with you at this time.
Q Olivia, on student loans, the President vetoed bipartisan legislation this week overturning his student debt relief program. Are there plans in place for if the Supreme Court rules it’s unconstitutional?
MS. DALTON: I don’t have anything to share at this time. Our focus is on the strong legal arguments that we’ve made at the Supreme Court. We believe that this is an imperative program that provides critically needed breathing room to thousands of student borrowers who need a little bit more room as we came out of this pandemic.
So, we’re focused on the — we’re confident in the legal arguments that our — our team made on — on our behalf, on behalf of this program in this case. And I’ll leave it there for today.
Q On yesterday’s Pride announcement, the White House announced that they were appointing a coordinator to deal with book bans across the country. What will — how will that coordinator be empowered to deal with book bans at the state and local level across the country? And how will they sort of pick up on (inaudible)?
MS. DALTON: Sure. So, as you may be aware, in 2022 we saw more book bans than any year on record. Most of these book bans targeted LGBT people and communities of color.
That has a deleterious impact on both our students’ ability to learn, it certainly infringes on their freedom to access information, and has the impact of isolating particular individuals and groups. And as you heard the President talk about yesterday, we’re concerned about how this might impact the civil rights of students across the country.
So, the Department of Education will be — will be establishing an office of a coordinator to reach out to school districts, school officials, school administrators across the country to inform them about how these book bans might infringe on students’ civil rights.
And with respect to any additional details on how that might come together, I’d refer you to the DO — DOE.
Q What authority will that coordinator have, though, if local school boards are the ones banning these books?
MS. DALTON: I would refer you to the Department of Education about how the — the nitty-gritty of how those — that coordinator will work with school districts. But this, again, is an effort to inform school districts about the impacts that these book bans could have on their students and about students’ civil rights.
Q On the EO today. So, President Obama — Joining Initiatives has gone — gone on for a while. How does this actually build or advance on that? What’s new that’s coming out of this EO that wasn’t there before?
MS. DALTON: So, the — we put out a factsheet this morning that details the nearly 20 actions that this executive order will take to strengthen support systems for military spouses who are looking for employment. We know that one in five military spouses cite employment as a reason for considering leaving the forces, which is why this is a huge issue for us to combat. It’s a matter of shoring up our military readi- — readiness and keeping our armed forces strong.
And so, today we are rolling out a series of actions — you can go to Whitehouse.gov and look at all of those resources — but to come up with a comprehensive, across-the-government strategy for doing things like helping ensure that military spouses can access the program on the federal government’s website to have preference in hiring processes, to support veteran spouse — military and veteran spouses who are entrepreneurs if they have to relocate across the country. And so, support things like childcare, making that more accessible for military spouses.
So there are a number of actions that this EO takes to try to make it easier for military spouses to gain employment.
And I’ll leave it there.
Q Is the White House reassessing your approach to protecting voting rights after the decision in the Supreme Court yesterday? And what’s the message to voters who are frustrated by a lack of progress on the issue?
MS. DALTON: Look, the — you know, the Supreme Court decision yesterday, as you heard from the President, affirmed the basic principle that you cannot infringe on someone’s ability to vote based on race.
The right to vote is sacred. It is fundamental. It is the right on which every other right that we have as citizens is founded. And you’ve heard the President and the Vice President both talk about the importance of protecting that principle and on getting Congress to act. Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to strengthen — strengthen other protections for voters across the country.
So they’ll continue to fight and urge Congress to take federal action and protect voting rights.
Q Sorry, Olivia, is the President comfortable with Democrats fundraising off of the Trump indictment? Hillary Clinton put out a call to do so today.
MS. DALTON: I’m simply not going to comment on this.
Q On North Carolina. North Carolina is one of many states that passed restrictive abortion bans recently. Is the President going to engage with any people on the ground there or address any of these abortion bans while he’s traveling there today?
MS. DALTON: Certainly, I think you’re going to hear from Governor Cooper today, who has been a strong voice for women in the state of North Carolina, as they have borne the brunt of this horrific abortion ban that was passed by the state legislature here.
And, of course, the President and the Vice President are going to remain — remain vocal about the need to protect women’s access to basic reproductive freedoms in our country and to stop these bans from taking place across the country.
And the President will continue to fight for Congress to pass the — codify Roe into law.
Q Will he address the (inaudible) in the state today?
MS. DALTON: I don’t have any preview for you on that.
Q Olivia, could I follow up on the —
MS. DALTON: Just a final one, guys. I think we’re landing.
Q — on Cuba and China? A spy base in Cuba. Even after they say that is inaccurate, GOP lawmakers are still saying that President Biden is too weak on Cuba. And actually, they’re asking to stop diplomatic contacts with — with Havana. What do you have to say about that?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, again, I think you’ve heard my colleagues say this, and I’ll say it again here: We’ve seen the reports; they’re inaccurate. Certainly, we are aware of Chinese presence in the Western Hemisphere, deeply concerned about that unwelcome presence, and particularly with respect to any projects that could have military implications.
But certainly, we also feel that we are confident in our ability to respond and meet our security needs here and around the world.
Q But is President Biden too weak on Cuba? What do you think about that?
MS. DALTON: I’ll have to leave it there. Thanks.
11:25 A.M. EDT