James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 1:18 P.M. EDT MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. It would not be a briefing without some s
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:18 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. It would not be a briefing without some special guests. So I have some with me today.
Today, President Biden is welcoming mayors, chiefs of police, a county commissioner, and a community violence intervention expert to the White House to talk about how the Rescue Plan is providing historic levels of support to make our communities safer.
The President will encourage even more communities to use Rescue Plan funding to invite more — to invest more in fighting violent crime and to deploy American Rescue Plan funding to make our communities safer as quickly as possible as we head into summer.
As we announced earlier today, over $10 billion has been spent or committed already on public safety through the Rescue Plan, including by over 300 communities and more than half of the states.
The money is being put to use keeping cops on the beat for community policing, investing in mental health and substance use disor- — substance use disorder services, crisis responders, community violence intervention, and other programs to address the causes of crime and ease the burden on police.
These are stories from across the country about how this money is already making a difference, and we wanted you to hear about it directly from the leaders on the frontlines.
First is Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, Missouri, who has leveraged Rescue Plan money to avoid public safety layoffs and has used it to invest $10 million for new police technology.
Because of the fiscal space provided by the Rescue Plan, Kansas City is also working to hire 150 new police officers. Mayor Lucas was elected in 2018 and previously served on the city council.
Next is Police Chief James White of the Detroit Police Department. Together with Mayor Duggan, Chief White has used over $110 million from the Rescue Plan to invest in body cameras, new gunshot detection technology, and $30 million for enhanced police patrols, among other strategies.
Chief White is a veteran of over two decades at the Detroit Police Department. And since he was sworn in last year and with the help of the Rescue Plan, Detroit has recorded an 18 percent decrease in homicides compared to the previous year. They’ll each speak briefly, will take some questions. They’ll have to go to meet with the President, which is a good reason.
So I will turn that over to — turn it over to Mayor Lucas. Thank you so much.
MAYOR LUCAS: Thank you so much. And it’s an honor to be with you all today.
I’m here to discuss public safety, not just in Kansas City, but in many of America’s cities. If we think back just a few years, we had a challenge of tight budgets and rising crime. The American Rescue Plan has filled an important and vital gap for us in Kansas City. If not for the American Rescue Plan, officers would have lost their jobs, salaries would have been frozen, and our city would have become more dangerous.
Instead, we have been able to invest in a number of vital and important areas. First of all, we’ve heard much discussion in recent years about community policing. There is no community policing without the police. The American Rescue Plan funds have allowed us to invest in more police officers — and not only more police officers, but salary increases so that we can make sure that we are recruiting and, importantly, retaining good officers in Kansas City.
In addition to that, communications technology in Kansas City of $10 million from the American Rescue Plan allows us to invest in so many deferred technology areas so we can continue to be smart about how we solve crime, keep our officers safe as they’re looking to solve crime, and, importantly, make sure that we’re spending those additional funds in areas like recruiting in areas like intervention.
As a mayor, I’ve had the chance not just to have experiences with my own police department, but I’ve done ride-alongs in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Washington, and a number of other American cities. In each of those, you’re hearing from people and mayors and leaders that are saying that this support has been key in terms of making our city safer and making sure that everyone in our community has police officers, but has police officers who have the time and have the opportunity to get involved in our neighborhoods each and every day.
So I thank the President for giving us this opportunity with the American Rescue Plan. I look forward to our conversation this afternoon where we’ll continue to talk about how we can work together — police, politicians, so many other folks in Washington — in terms of making sure our city sta- — stays safer, rather, as we go into the summer.
Thank you so much.
CHIEF WHITE: Good afternoon, everyone. James White, Detroit Police Chief. I took the role of police chief in Detroit June 1st of last year, after serving 24 years in the city of Detroit, having gone through bankruptcy in Detroit, retiring to take a job with the state, and then coming back to lead this great department of some of the hardest-working men and women in law enforcement. Certainly a humbling and honoring experience for me.
Coming back and recognizing what’s happening in our country with law enforcement, police chiefs and police departments have to be innovative. You cannot arrest your way out of crime. There has to be community services, community programming, mental health support, and a number of other different programs.
Having been an assistant chief at a time when Detroit went through bankruptcy and knowing what that felt like, I’d much rather be the chief when there’s the type of investment that we see from the American Rescue Plan for cities like Detroit.
It’s enabled us to do a number of different things. Number one, put officers in high areas of crime, put officers around our city where we are looking at, statistically, gun violence being higher in those areas than in other areas in our city.
But in addition, it’s to provide our officers with state-of-the-art training, being able to develop training protocols based on best practices, and use our training facility and bring it up to standards that are necessary in this day and age in law enforcement, making sure that our officers are — are best equipped to deal with the programming and the issues that we’re seeing in our community.
One of the most exciting programs that we have is our crisis intervention training and our crisis intervention cars. When I took this role, we had crisis intervention officers in three of our precincts. I’m happy to say that today, as a result of this American Rescue Plan dollars, we’re able to put it in six of our precincts. And by the end of the year, we’re hopeful that we’ll be in all 12 precincts.
And what that does for us is provide a very specific layer of safety — not just for the officers, but for the citizens who are in mental health crisis — by having a trained mental health professional in that car with a trained officer who is trained in mental health intervention, recognizing what they’re looking at, recognizing what they’re dealing with when they come upon someone who is in crisis and perhaps engaging in violent or erratic behavior. Having those trained officers is an incredible layer of success and layer of equipment that we just did not have prior to this.
And one last thing is the training facility and the opportunity to recruit. Right now, in policing, recruiting is difficult, and having a state-of-the-art training facility and recruiting opportunity has been instrumental in what we’re trying to accomplish in our city.
So, with that, thank you.
MS. PSAKI: All right. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. Mayor, it is good to see you again. A Missouri General Assembly just passed a bill just now that increases the percentage of Kansas City’s budget that needs to be spent on policing. What’s your reaction to the bill? But more importantly, what’s your reaction to them passing it while you’re here on this very topic?
MAYOR LUCAS: I think it’s always important to have locally driven solutions to local problems. I think that’s why the American Rescue Plan was so helpful — money coming directly to cities and to states so we could solve public safety problems.
I do not think, necessarily, that someone in outstate Missouri has better answers for policing than somebody in the core of Kansas City. And what we’ve been able to do, both with American Rescue Plan funding and our collaboration with folks at the state and federal level, is come to solutions, like more officers that my friends in the legislature and the governor are asking for.
And so, I do not support anything that takes away our ability to work with our local police department and neighborhood leaders in terms of how we get to better solutions for violent crime.
MS. PSAKI: Zolan.
Q This — this administration has often described — talked about funding the police as crucial to not just lowering crime but also for police reform. I heard you talk about crisis intervention training, but did any of the ARP investments that you allocated also go towards implicit bias training or programs that require diversifying the rank and file or active bystander training? Anything that specifically goes towards accountability or oversight?
CHIEF WHITE: Yeah, I’ll take that. And so, in Detroit, we’re in the process right now of building out — just hired a diversity, equity, and inclusion director. We’re constantly looking at our policies. It’s enabled me to incorporate a number of different components of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which we already have, but just expanding out and recognizing that we can make improvements, and we’ve been able to do that.
Q Did that come from ARP funds?
MR. WHITE: It — what it came from was the — the fact that we did not lose money or we didn’t have a budgetary shortfall, so we were able to do some things without losing the dollars if we did not have the money.
Q But that’s essentially, like, one — you’re talking about a coordinator, somebody that’s hired on to —
CHIEF WHITE: You’re talking about, really, a process. Because, for us, it’s for all of our officers. There’s a number of — there’s a coordinator and then there’s a programming from that coordinator that goes out department wide.
Q And do you see that as kind of the main method of accountability when it comes to ARP investments —
MR. WHITE: No.
Q — or a program that enforces accountability?
MR. WHITE: No. I mean, that’s just one of many. You know, when we talk about community engagement, we can’t fight crime without our communities. Communities have to have trust. They have to believe in police officers. And certainly, this is a time where police trust is super important.
And so, when you talk about transparency in policing, that’s — that’s what these training opportunities provide us: to — to look at best practices, to be innovative, and to work on transparency with community.
MS. PSAKI: Last one, Brian.
Q Thank you. Just to follow up on that a bit — going forward, in your community and other communities like yours, what do you think is the most needed, underfunded need that you have going forward?
MAYOR LUCAS: Among everything? (Laughter.)
Q Yeah. Among everything we were just talking about.
MAYOR LUCAS: In terms of community trust?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, I think there was a reason that both of us have talked about recruiting and retaining officers. We want officers that actually have the time to be engaged in communities, time to actually interact with neighborhoods, time to get known by people in the neighborhood.
In most cities in America, you’re not catching people say, “We want to get rid of all the police.” In fact, I’ve caught very few people who have said that. They said they want the way they interact with police to be different. They want somebody who has time to do community interaction.
That’s why these investments, in my opinion, are so important — because then you build up community trust, which helps you solve crime, it helps you actually build the relationships that you need to long term.
And so, there’s not a single kind of magic program that I think works in terms of getting to any of these issues. It’s instead making sure that you’re investing somewhat holistically in police departments — having enough officers that you can address things, like having an event at the community center, making sure there are people that are following up in neighborhoods, making sure that you have social workers in departments, which many of us have.
And that’s where these funds, I think, are largely helping us invest in areas where without them, we’d be laying off police officers, cutting social programs, cutting everything that’s actually needed to get people to trust the police more.
MS. PSAKI: Do you have one more, Zeke?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Thank you. We’re sitting here and violent crime, gun crime in particular, across the country is at an elevated level heading into the summer. You talked about the risk there. When you go in to meet with the President in a few minutes, is there any specific requests that you have from him, from the federal government for resources or tools that your department, your city need heading into the summer?
CHIEF WHITE: Sure. I mean, certainly, you know, we — we’re only one part of the judicial process. Right? I mean, we make the arrests; there’s our courts, the prosecutor’s office. You know, we have a number of different needs. And then there’s the intersection of crime with mental illness. And then we certainly recognize that, you know, we have a literacy problem in our country.
And so, there are a number of different factors that drive crime. By the time someone commits a crime, there’s a number of failed systems that has caused that to happen.
So, we — we’re not going to simply arrest our last person and solve the problem. We have to do a lot of work. So, I’ll be talking about those types of investments — community support, which we’ve been able to do with our Ceasefire Detroit, and provide those community programming, because I think that’s super important.
Mental health is super important. Engaging the courts at a high level is super important. And certainly, supporting police officers and making sure that they’re properly trained in some of the areas that we’ve talked about today.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Mayor Lucas and Chief White —
MAYOR LUCAS: Thanks so much.
CHIEF WHITE: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: — for joining us. Really appreciate it. Okay. Oh, here, I don’t want you to — here you go. I’m sorry. Okay.
Okay, I just have a couple more toppers for all of you. I’m just really getting it all in on the last day here with the toppers for everybody.
The President spoke earlier today with Abu Dhabi ruler Mohammed bin Zayid Al Nahyan to convey condolences on the passing of UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed. The two leaders agreed to honor Sheikh Khalifa’s memory by continuing to strengthen ties between the governments and people of the United States and the UAE.
I also wanted to provide an update on infant formula and where we are, and some updates on steps that we have taken. Yesterday, we announced a slate of actions to increase safe infant formula supply following Abbott’s voluntary recall. The President also spoke to major retailers and manufacturers to hear about what they are doing and what they need to help increase availability.
One of the top issues — the very top issue — they asked us to act on was getting states to increase WIC flexibility so they can get more formula on the shelves faster. Basically, how it works now is: Each state has a contract with a manufacturer, — whether it’s Abbott or any of the other manufacturers. And they want flexibility so that they can — if you have — if you use WIC and you get WIC assistance, you can purchase any kind of infant formula.
This afternoon, Secretary Vilsack sent a letter to all states, urging them to adopt all pes- — possible flexibilities in the WIC program. That is actually a step we’d encourage them to do the day following the recall back in February. But some states took the step and other states did not take the step at the time, so this is an extra urging to do that.
He directed all states to review their practices. And the Agricultural Department is reaching out to states throughout the day, building on months of conversations.
And next week, USDA will follow up on the letter and calls to provide states with help to issue waivers. That’s what helps, obviously, consumers — people who have WIC who are rec- — recipients and they go to the store.
What we’re also doing at the same time to help create this flexibility that these manu- — or these supply — these store retailers asked for is — today, Abbott also committed to provide critical flexibility to states through the end of August in the form of rebates. And that means that these states can plan ahead and they can purchase supply ahead from a range of manufacturers, not just the ones that they have contracts with.
This means that families on WIC can purchase any available product in the months to come through August, and states and retailers can plan ahead, as I noted.
The FDA also just issued a statement about importing formula from abroad. They — the FDA committed to providing additional information early next week that will facilitate importation to get more product on U.S. store shelves as soon as possible.
And last, we recognize that parents have a lot of questions — Mary asked about this yesterday; I think MJ asked about this too — about where to go and who to call if they cannot obtain formula right now.
HHS has just launched a new webpage that provides resources and places that parents can go to obtain formula, including contacts with companies, food banks, healthcare providers. You can find this at HHS.gov/formula.
This work is far from over. And in the days ahead, you’ll hear about new actions we’re taking to increase safe infant formula.
We’ll give you a week ahead: On Sunday, the President will deliver remarks honoring the law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2021 at the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service on the west front of the Capitol.
On Monday, the President will award public safety officer medals of valor for extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty.
Later in the day, the President will welcome the Prime Minister of Greece to the White House, where they will affirm our strong bilateral partnership and celebrate 201 years of Greek independence. The leaders will discuss ongoing efforts with allies and partners to support the people of Ukraine and impose economic costs on Russia for its unprovoked aggression.
After the bilat, the President and the First Lady will host a reception in honor of the Prime Minister.
On Tuesday, the President and the First Lady will host a reception in the Rose Garden to celebrate Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This month, we honor our diverse Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. While the rich histories, cultures, and struggles of the AA — AA and NH/PI communities may be different, their futures are woven together through a shared American experience.
And finally, on Thursday, the President will depart for Seoul — with many of you — South Korea, for his first trip to Asia as President. Karine and the team will have more to announce early next week. And National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will join the briefing on Monday to preview the trip.
Last thing I wanted to just say — so I have one more topper. You know, this is my last briefing.
MS. PSAKI: It is, Brian. And I wanted to start with a series of thank yous. And I promised myself I wasn’t going to get emotional. Whew. Okay.
Thank you. I want to say thank you to the President and the First Lady. They entrusted me in serving in this role for the last 15 months.
And I’ve talked about this a little bit before, but during my first conversation with them, which was in November of 2020, after the election, I was very nervous when I went to see them in Delaware. And, really, what we talked about for the majority of our conversation was the importance of returning integrity, respect, and civility to the White House — the small sliver of my job here in engaging with all of you.
That does not mean that we haven’t let our Irish side show — mine and the President’s as well — from time to time. I recognize that.
But on my best days and as I look back, I hope I followed the example of integrity and grace that they have set for all of us and do set for all of us every day. And I’m incredibly grateful to them.
I have — I’m not going to get everyone here, but I want to thank — there’s a Biden family that has extended and expanded far beyond the Biden-named family. And that includes people who have worked with the President and for the President for many years: Ron, Anita, Bruce, Cedric, Kate, JOD, Donilon, Ricchetti, Susan, Deese, Jake, Evan, Annie, Elizabeth Alexander. There’s so many others.
And the reason I mention them is because part of my job or anyone’s job in this role is to represent and talk about the policies of — and the work of any administration. They have integrity, grit, commitment to trying, even on the hardest days and worst days, to make the world better for the American people. And I am very grateful to them.
Now, I’m not going to cry about the press team. Whew. Okay. (Laughs.) Thank you to the press team. Many of them are here. Some of them are not here because they’re taking much-needed days off. It has nothing to do with me personally, I promise. But you all know a lot of them. For those who don’t know them: They are incredibly tough, smart, hardworking, and deeply, deeply good human beings, deeply good public servants.
And, you know, people always ask me — and I’m sure you guys get asked this too — about whether Washington is rotten; you know, whether everybody is corrupt here and, you know, nothing good happens and we all just argue with each other. And I, having done this job, believe the absolute opposite is true. Because I have worked with and engaged with all of these incredible people across the administration and this amazing team, many of whom are here, that I get to work with every day.
And I — as I said about Karine last week, these people are already the stars of the team, but they’re going to be shining stars in the future. And I’ll miss them a lot. Okay. Whew. I promised myself I was going to keep it together; I’m not.
This is the last part of this: I want to thank all of you in this room. You have challenged me. You have pushed me. You have debated me. And at times, we have disagreed. That is democracy in action. That is it working.
Without accountability, without debate, government is not as strong, and you all play an incredibly pivotal role.
Thank you for what you do. Thank you for making me better. And, most importantly, thank you for the work every day you do to make this country stronger. And I am very grateful to all of you as well.
So, thank you for your role and to the role of your colleagues here and around the world.
Okay. With that, Zeke, go ahead.
Q (Cross-talk by reporters.)
Q Thank you, Jen. And we wish you well. And we hope you enjoy —
Q (Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. PSAKI: Can I do one more thank-you? Because my husband is here. And I think anybody who is married with kids knows that without a remarkable spouse, you would never be able to do it. I know many of you have kids. I’m just looking at Ashley, Ed, Mary, so many — MJ. And he has not only been a supporter, an advocate of mine, but he is an incredible partner and dad, and I wouldn’t be here without him.
Okay, go ahead. Now let’s talk about serious issues. Go ahead.
Q I have a suggestion —
Q Thanks, Jen. Could you — you talked — Brian Deese talked a little —
Q Why don’t you take questions from across the room? Jen, I have a suggestion to give on your last press briefing.
Q Brian Deese, this morning, (inaudible) and he suggested that the administration had been aware of the —
Q Why don’t you take questions from across the room?
Q He suggested the administration has been aware of this formula shortage for —
Q Because that’s what you have not been able to do for the past 15 months.
Q — some months now. Is there a reason why the administration waited until this week, once the issue was in the public, in the limelight, to take some of these actions that you had discussed or — particularly that website? Those are resources that people might have benefitted from greatly over the last several weeks and months.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Zeke, we have not waited to take action. So, what we have done since the day after the recall was announced — we actually took steps, working with these producers and working with states, to ensure both, one, we were pushing states and encouraging them to expand flexibility as it relates to WIC — which is, again, the biggest ask of most people we talk to — and then we’ve been working with manufacturers. And that has resulted in Gerber increasing production by 50 percent; Ricketts increasing production by 30 percent. And over the last four weeks, more production of formula than there was in the four weeks prior and in comparison with last year.
This is all work that has been underway for the last several — several months since this recall was enacted.
On the website: This is a website — we saw the need, of course, over the last 24 hours as people had questions and they needed more information. We wanted to make it readily available and accessible to people.
But prior to that period of time, we had not seen, obviously, what we’ve seen over the last few days.
Q Has — on a different topic — did the President see and the White House have any reaction the disturbing images out of Israel this morning of Israeli police beating mourners of the Al Jazeera journalist and American citizen Shireen Abu Akleh, including they briefly dropped the casket? Does the White House have any response? And is the President taking any action in response?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would first that we have all seen those images; they’re obviously deeply disturbing. We — this is a day where we should all be marking, including everyone there, the memory of a remarkable journalist who lost her life. We know that there is — with the disturbing footage from the funeral procession today in Jerusalem, we regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession.
We’ve urged respect for the funeral procession, the mourners, and the family at this sensitive time.
We’re also in close touch with Israeli and Palestinian authorities — have been and obviously will continue to be, especially given the images we’ve seen today. We’re not currently involved in any of the investigation, but we are working to bridge cooperation and available to provide assistance as needed.
Q And just finally, is there a reason why the President’s meeting with King Abdullah this morning was not open to the press? Usually the President’s meetings with foreign leaders are open to take some questions
MS. PSAKI: Understand completely. It’s a private meeting. It wasn’t meant to be a bilateral of discussion. They’ve known each other for some time. Go ahead.
Q Thank you.
Q Jen, can I ask you a question from the back?
Q Back on the issue of the formula shortage.
Q Jen, can I ask you a question from the back?
Q Simon! Please stop.
Q I understand. But, you know —
Q Simon, please show some respect to everyone else in the room. Thank you.
Q For 15 months, you have (inaudible).
Q Jen, on the issue of formula. Thank you. Sir —
Q And I’m saying that, for the sake of equity, we (inaudible) —
Q First of all, thank you for your service, and thank you to your husband for his service as well.
On the issue of formula —
Q (Cross-talk by reporters.)
Q I think, if anything, this crisis has reminded everyone —
MS. PSAKI: Simon, if you could respect your colleagues and media and reporters in here, that would be greatly appreciated.
Q No, the biggest — the biggest disrespect is not to have a question for 15 months.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Mary.
Q Thank you. If anything this —
Q That’s why I’m asking you.
Q Sir, please.
Q If you can spread the questions (inaudible) —
Q If anything, this has reminded, I think, the entire country and the world that this is not a —
Q — then all of us in the back (inaudible).
Q — luxury item, but an essential.
Q (Cross-talk by reporters.)
Q Not today. Not today. Not today.
Q Thank you. Formula is not a luxury item; it is an essential. It is something that families across the country rely on.
Is this such a valuable commodity that the President thinks that we need some kind of backstop, some ability to surge in the way that we do for other essential items — perhaps even some kind of stockpile?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say there have been discussion, and some members of Congress have raised questions, say, of the Defense Production Act, which that would be something which is on the table, we’ve not made a decision about, but would be — would help address issues over the long term.
What we are doing here is we’re trying to be — to ensure that states and others can plan over the long term, as in the coming months. But it is — it is certainly, you know, a reminder that not only do we need to continue to work closely with manufacturers, continue to work closely with retailers and providers, but ensure that everybody knows what they can do to get access over the longer term.
But I’m not — there’s not a discussion of a stockpile. What we need to do is ensure we are addressing any issues in the supply chain and addressing any issues with speeding up manufacturing.
Q You mentioned that the Defense Production Act — and forgive me if I’m not understanding how this works, but —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q But how would that actually work? Because you say you’re exploring it, but it seems that the issue here is really not having enough manufacturing capacity. So is it really a matter of just looking for other sites that can produce this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s exactly right, Mary. And so the reason why it would have a longer-term impact is because their production of manu- — of baby formula is so specialized and so specific that you can’t just use the Defense Production Act to say to a company that produces something else, “Produce baby formula.” It just doesn’t work that way exactly. That is something that could be a consideration over the longer term.
And certainly, there are ways that the Defense Production Act has been used in other industries — right? — as it relates to a chemical that is needed or a specific tool or part that is needed.
So, right now, of course, we’re keeping that option under consideration. But our focus primarily is twofold: One is increasing supply, making — and the other is making it readily available.
And, obviously, production is working with these manufacturers; and also imports, making sure we’re making more baby formula available through imports; and then making it readily available. The biggest step we can take is this WIC flexibility component, which obviously we took two steps, not just pushing states, but also working with Abbott to ensure they’re providing a rebate for longer-term planning.
Q And just lastly, you said that the FDA is going to have more on easing imports and some of those steps next week. But does the President believe that parents should be allowed to buy formula directly from abroad?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been difficult — there have been limitations on this because, of course, we have a very high level of, you know, FDA approval processes to ensure that we have the best formula that is safe for babies. And, of course, whatever formula would be imported would meet those standards.
But we think the best steps we can take is to work with Abbott, and Abbott has a responsibility here, too, to work closely with the FDA and doing the steps that are necessary to get back and operational online.
We have a great deal of manufacturing capacity here in the United States. That’s less the issue. The issue is, obviously, this was a recall in February, that, as a reminder, was done because there — in — there was a factory in Michigan that had tainted formula that killed two babies.
But we have a range of manufacturing capacity here. So this import step would be not forever or necessarily even long term. It’s just to address the current need.
Q Thank you, Jen. And thank you for your work here the last —
MS. PSAKI: Thank you.
Q — 16 months.
You said yesterday that the United States would support Sweden and Finland’s application to NATO. Turkey is a current NATO member and the President of Turkey is saying that they would not — his country would not look positively on that. What is the U.S. reaction to that? And will the U.S. intervene on the Nordic countries’ behalf?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, so, we are working to clarify Turkey’s position. We would refer you to the Turkish government for more information on their views.
I think there’s no question — and you’ve seen this from the public statements of a number of NATO leaders — that there is broad support from NATO member countries in Finland and Sweden’s, you know, desire or interest — stated interest in applying to join NATO. But we are continuing to work with Turkey, and I would point you to their representatives.
Q Also, any White House reaction to Elon Musk saying today that his deal to buy Twitter is on hold while getting information on fake bot accounts?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. I would say this is a transaction — a potential transaction, I guess we can call it at this point — from a private investor. And we don’t have any comment on private transactions.
Our views, broadly speaking, on the role of social media platforms and the need for reforms certainly still stands. But — but right now, it’s a — it’s a reported view of a transaction of a private investor.
Go ahead, Ed.
Q Thank you, Jen, for what I’m told is episode 224 of the briefing.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, that is true.
Q Thank you for doing this, as you’ve done.
MS. PSAKI: Has time gone as quickly for you? (Laughter.)
Q I haven’t been here for all the episodes.
MS. PSAKI: That’s true. You’ve been here for a lot of them.
Q A few things. Back to the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, I’m curious: Does the President himself plan to speak with her family, given especially in part that she is an American citizen?
MS. PSAKI: We have, obviously, reached out and engaged through national security officials with her family. I don’t have any calls to predict or preview at this point in time. But if that does happen, we’d, of course, make that information available to all of you.
Q And does the President have any plans to speak with the Israeli government directly about the death and the ongoing investigation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we have been engaged with them and have offered support. And if they need specific support from us, we will provide that. But I don’t have any calls to predict at this point in time.
Q And then two quick ones on immigration. There could be a ruling today in federal court on the future of Title 42 and whether or not it gets delayed beyond the May 23rd deadline. Can you give us a status report on ongoing preparations for the end of it should that deadline hold and how they might change if they get delayed by a quarter?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the preparations have been ongoing, led by the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Mayorkas. As we’ve talked about in the past, he has outlined a plan that he has been preparing since last fall to ensure we’re increasing capacity at the border, that we are taking steps to ensure that we are prepared for the lifting of Title 42.
Those are proceeding. Obviously, I’m not going to prejudge a court ruling that hasn’t quite happened yet and what it will mean, or prejudge what the Department of Justice may do in response. I’m sure there’ll be more discussion about that if and when they rule today.
Q And one other — you may remember, last fall, there were questions about court cases brought by families that were separated at the border. And at the time, the White House said, “If it saves taxpayer dollars and puts the disastrous history of the previous administration’s use of zero tolerance and family separation behind us, the President is perfectly comfortable with the Department of Justice settling with the individuals and families who are currently in litigation…”
A CBS News review of court records published this week, however, finds that the Justice Department is actually seeking to dismiss all lawsuits filed by migrant families requesting compensation over the separations during the Trump years.
Just curious, how do the Justice Department’s moves to dismiss those cases line up with what was said here last fall and the overall commitment to bringing justice to these people?
And is the administration willing to return to the negotiating table to try to forge some kind of a settlement with them, since the President, among others, has called that policy criminal?
MS. PSAKI: It was, and the President believes it was horrific and inhumane. And our sta- — our statement made last fall stands.
Now, these are negotiations and discussions being led by the Department of Justice. I don’t have any confirmation of that report. I’d certainly point you to them for the status of any discussions with the families.
Q Thanks, Jen. And thank you for always taking my questions.
MS. PSAKI: Of course, Jacqui.
Q Happy to catch your last briefing. Thank you from all of us.
So, you must have some information on baby formula from these manufacturers from the discussions that the President has been having. The administration has been saying that more formula has been produced in the last four weeks than the four weeks preceding the recall and the shutdown. So, what is the best sense of a timeline for parents on how long is this going to be an issue and when in-stock rates are going to get better?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we — there’s a couple of issues at play here, Jacqui, and this is a really important question. But it’s hard for us to make an assessment from here.
What we’re seeing is that the supply shortages are re- — can be regional and sometimes they can rotate. And sometimes the issue at play here is that bigger man- — manufa- — or, bigger retailers have a — have a more streamlined process for stocking the shelves than smaller retailers.
Now, a lot of people go to stores in their community to go buy baby formula. And it may just be that there’s a bit of a delay in stocking some of those shelves. It is certainly a good sign and a positive sign that here has been this increased production from these other retailers.
And our hope is also that because there’s going to be more flexibility with WIC in the ability of WIC recipients to purchase different kinds of formula, enabling many people who are maybe waiting for their states to make that decision, and also that states will have this rebate opportunity, it will provide the incentive to further provide flexibility — that will also help. And, of course, imports.
So, we’re working to not just address — we’ve been working to address for months — but we’re working to make this — to ensure that there is greater supply — consistent supply on the shelves as long as possible.
Now, what we know — and I know from feeding formula to two kids — is that typically you have one formula that you give your kid, right? And so, the challenge here is also for parents, when they’re reliant on one formula — and maybe it is — maybe their child has certain needs because they’re sensitive to dairy products or other products.
And so, the other part of this that we’re trying to address is providing these resources so that if people have questions about what kind of formula they can take as an alternative — like the ones that will be imported are not necessarily formulas that people know, but there may be ones that are parallel to the formulas that people are taking — or giving to their children.
So we are working on every lever here to expedite addressing this and to ensure that when people go, when mothers go to the grocery stores in the coming weeks, that they will see a shelf stocked.
Q And I did just go through the HHS website that you guys put out. One of the suggestions for emergency situations would be to call your pediatrician, see if they have in-store samples or — or in-office office samples, or go to a local food pantry. Clearly, you’ve outlined this as, you know, there’s going to be a range, sort of, timelines depending on where you live in the country and where you shop.
But say for big-box stores — I mean the Walmarts and Giants and Krogers — can you give us sort of a ballpark window for just, realistically, how many weeks or months this — parents are going to be having trouble finding it, or in-stock rates would get — would start to improve?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that the reason we suggest calling peop- — your pediatrician is because of this question I just touched on. Because when you’re feeding your child formula, typically they don’t recommend changing formula necessarily, but there are ways to do it. And if your child has specific needs or is intolerant to certain ingredients, a pediatrician can help advise on that. But obviously, there are a lot of other resources through public health sites as well.
I would say for the bo- — big — bigger retailers — you know, some of whom the President spoke with yesterday — their number one biggest ask was the flexibility on WIC. And their feeling was that that would help them take steps, given the increased supply of these other manufacturers, to help stock the shelves more quickly.
Q So you guys aren’t comfortable giving any sort of ballpark window of time, basically?
MS. PSAKI: “As quickly as possible” is our objective, Jacqui, but it’s going to be different store to store.
Q Okay. And then one more on the — also on baby formula. It seems like when there’s a crisis, you often call on the FTC to look at price gouging. I recall this administration doing that with gas prices. It didn’t seem to really bring down gas prices and did not increase supply. How is it going to be different this time around with baby formula? And how quickly are they going to be cracking down on people who are reporting and not — what are the ramifications? When are we going to see that play out?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the FTC is an independent agency. So by us calling for them to look at price gouging — they obviously haven’t taken a step on oil companies; otherwise you would be fully aware of it — but it is something that we can all watch, even as non-economists and even as non-oil experts. When the price of oil goes down, the price of gas should go down. And that is not what we have seen consistently.
I would say as it relates to baby formula, what we know is that we are certainly seeing, and we have seen, hoarding happen. And so we are looking for, you know, that to be looked into. And we think that’s an issue where if there’s caps — and this is something we have been working to institute — on the number of containers that can be purchased, that will help. But also, we’re — we are — we are taking every step we can to ensure that that is tracked and that can be addressed, if needed, to — in the pool of doing everything we can to address this.
Q Jen, thanks for your service, and thanks for delivering on your commitment to return the daily briefing. All of us in this room are grateful for that.
I want to ask, if I can, about crime that the President is going to be addressing a little bit later. We had one of the mayors and one of the police chiefs here a short time ago. Beyond directing dollars, can you sort of detail the level of concern with this administration about bail reform right now and about some district attorneys being too lenient in their prosecution of criminals?
And I guess, beyond that, what other points of leverage do you have to encourage stronger prosecution efforts or any efforts to change that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, on bail reform: On the President — on the campaign trail, the President said that cash bail has become the modern-day debtor’s prison. No one should be held just because they are poor. And a person who is dangerous but has the money to pay bail shouldn’t have a “get out of jail” card. That continues to be his view.
What we see is some — there are a couple of big issues as it relates to crime.
We’ve seen — we’ve inherited from the previous administration the largest year-over-year jump in murders in record history in 2020.
Our focus from here has been putting more cops on the beat — you heard the police chief talk about that through the American Rescue Plan, backed up by more federal agents; to take violent crime off the streets; cracking down on firearm traffickers — 77 percent of violent crime in the last assessment of data we have is a result — is with — is with guns; to get illegal guns off of our streets, and stemming the flow of ghost guns — something the President has taken a number of actions on — and investing through the ARP and community programs to prevent crime by interrupting disputes before they spill into violence.
I will note, and you heard — you heard the police chief just talk about this — but in cities like Detroit and Houston, who have both used Rescue Plan funds to invest in fighting crime, we’ve seen declines in certain categories. Because our view and the President’s view is: If you fund and have more cops on the beat working with communities, that is going to help address this issue.
I’d also note that as it relates to guns — which is a huge concern of ours — since last summer, we obviously initiated these and announced these DOJ-led strike forces; they’re an integral part of the President’s plan to keep our community safe. And as I noted, 77 percent of homicides committed in 2020 — the last year we had data — were done with a firearm. Since the launch last summer, the DOJ strike force has already seized 5,100.
And one of the steps that can be taken is, of course, to confirm Steve Dettelbach, a very qualified person, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Arms.
And the President has also called for an additional $30 billion in new funding in his 2023 budget to fight crime. And that is a step that he is hopeful there will be bipartisan support for.
Q There’s a lot of questions in the room, so I’ll limit mine to two today. The other one is about ASEAN that’s here. What commitments has the President secured from the leaders of ASEAN to condemn Russia?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there will be a communiqué that comes out later this evening. I know communiqués are very exciting to everyone, but there will be interest.
Q Talk about the unique challenge (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: I’m certain in this one.
I will say, you know, Ukraine and Russia would not typically be a major topic of discussion at ASEAN, right? You all have covered them before. You visited. You’ve traveled to cover ASEAN summits. And it certainly will be a topic of discussion and was last night and will continue to be today.
So there will be a broad discussion of Ukraine and Russia. The United States — in these meetings, we’ll continue to lay out our approach to Russia’s unjustified and illegal war. We believe the ASEAN leaders are very interested to hear more about our approach, both where things stand and in terms of the next steps.
We extep [sic] — expect that the leaders statement will also have a reference to Ukraine in it as well. But that is still being finalized in the coming hours.
Q Will President Biden address the abortion rally tomorrow?
MS. PSAKI: He has no plans to address the rally tomorrow.
Q And, separately, does he have any plans to meet with abortion advocates — rights advocates at the White House here?
MS. PSAKI: We are very engaged with women’s rights advocates, abortion advocates, and other advocates, as well as members of Senate — members of the Senate and members of Congress.
I would note that this is an issue that is much broader than abortion advocates. They are, of course, marching in the streets and having their voices heard and peacefully protesting. And we respect the right to peacefully protest. But two thirds of the country does not want Roe to be overturned.
So this is an issue that we are engaged very broadly with across the spectrum about what steps we are considering, what steps we have the capacity to do, and what we would do if the final opinion looks like the draft that was leaked last week.
Q The families of Americans detained in Iran have appealed directly to the President for help in getting them out. They’re not — they don’t seem to have much faith in or hope that the nuclear negotiations are going along fast. So is he — is he receptive of that? Is there an effort ongoing to free those people?
MS. PSAKI: There is an ongoing effort led by our negotiating team from the State Department to bring every American home who is detained or held in a country and wants to be, of course, home with their families.
It has always been a separate channel than the Iran nuclear negotiation talks. It is not in the same channel. But certainly the President is committed to and will do everything possible to bring Americans home who are detained in Iran.
Q A question on Brittney Griner. Does the White House have a response on her detention being extended?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, there was a report on that this morning.
So I would say first that while we don’t have a comment on this specific development, I would just reiterate that the Russian system wrongfully detained Ms. Griner. We take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens seriously. And we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizens when they are subject to legal processes overseas.
Now, because the State Department recategorized her as wrongfully detained, it means that our Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs — it’s quite a title but a well-deserved one — is going to be overseeing this case and leading the effort. Because it’s a deliberative process and we know from experience of bringing other Americans home, we’re just not going to detail what those efforts look like at this point in time.
Q And last question. You said that the President won’t participate in any of the activities tomorrow. Will anyone from the administration take part in either protest tomorrow here in D.C.?
MS. PSAKI: As an official representative from the government? I will let you know if there’s someone that we have officially representing. I’m certain that people in their private time will participate and attend.
Q As we sit here, there doesn’t look to be a lot of appetite right now for more COVID funding in Congress. There have been warnings, of course, from the White House about what that will mean. Are you able to say what the plan B is? If there is no funding, is there money in the couch cushions to order the stuff that you say they’re not going to be able to order? Or when — can you give us an update on when things will start running out in the coming months?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well — well, I would say there is no plan B. While there is, you know, a limited amount of funding that we have to work with, it’s very limited, and it will require us making tough choices about what remaining tests, treatments, and vaccines we can get. We are continuing to work the phones, hold briefings, make our case publicly, of course, as you noted.
And we are having bipartisan, bicameral discussions about why we need this funding, what the consequences will be if we do not have it. And those are significant.
I mean, obviously, more Americans will die needlessly, which is the biggest heartbreaking issue.
We’re going to exhaust our treatment supply. We’ll lose out to other tr- — countries on promising new treatments.
This is one of the biggest components that is of concern to the President and all of us. Because, as you know, how we’ve approached this to date is we have ordered ahead so that we are first in line and we have the supply needed when there is a better booster or when there is a better vaccine or a vaccine that will treat specific variants. And we are putting ourselves, essentially, at the back of the line without this funding.
Yesterday, there was a — we hosted a global summit. We requested $5 billion for funding for — to help continue to be the arsenal of vaccines in the world. We will no longer be able to provide that funding. We also will be unable to maintain our supply of COVID tests, and we will be unable to ensure that there will be an — an — a never- — you know, an ongoing supply of free treatments for families across the country.
Q Is it possible that you’ll cut short previous orders to either — either because you can’t pay for them or because you want to reallocate the money?
MS. PSAKI: We will have to end programs, and some of that will feel abrupt.
Q Can I pivot and ask a little bit about — you know, the — about the baby formula challenge right now. Everyone’s 401(k)s are not looking hot at the moment — or maybe I’m speaking for myself. (Laughter.) Consumer sentiment today hit a fresh low since 2011 at its lowest point. And inflation, of course, is high. Gas prices are surging again.
There’s a sense right now that — you know, that there’s a lot of challenges in the economy in the U.S. What do you say to voters who are frustrated by that and, in particular, those who voted for this President because he, sort of, promised to be a, sort of, capable steward in contract to the previous president, since that was sort of the pitch he made to voters?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, first, we would say to families: We understand there are challenges you’re dealing with every day — costs are too high, it is too expensive to fill up your gas tank, food is too expensive at the store. And our focus right now is on taking every step possible to address those issues.
We know that the President — that the big driver of this is the — was the pandemic and the impact on supply chains and the — and then the uptick in the pandemic with Delta last summer. Then we had an additional challenge, as — you’ve noted some of these — but with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which drove up energy prices. And that is the biggest driver of inflationary costs at this point in time.
Now, we saw a downtick a bit earlier this week, but what we would also say to families is: One, we are at record economic growth. The unemployment rate is 3.6 percent. We’re seeing encouraging business investment. Those are all good signs.
What our focus is on is doing everything we can to lower costs, and that includes a range of steps the President has taken just over the last couple of weeks: making sure we’re lowering the price of high-speed Internet, giving farmers the tools and resources they need to boost production.
We’re also — he led the release of a million barrels of oil through the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; issued a waiver for E15 gasoline so thousands of gas stations in the Midwest could have an additional 10 cents cheaper option at the pump; fix the family glitch.
He is mindful and focused on doing everything he can to give people breathing room and lower costs. And what we’d sel — say to Americans also is: Look at the alternative. We all acknowledge inflation and cost is a challenging issue. What is the Republicans — what are they presenting as the option?
Q Is he frustrated by this? I mean, he likes to say the buck stops with him. You know, is he — things aren’t working. Is he frustrated with the circumstance? Is he frustrated with his team? Is he frustrated he hasn’t been able to get it under control?
MS. PSAKI: I would say: When you’ve served, as the President has, as Vice President for eight years, you’re pretty clear-eyed about the fact that leading the country means that the buck stops with you and that every challenge we face is on your desk. And he’s very aware of that.
Q Yeah, you’ve said that some states have not done this WIC waiver. Which ones?
MS. PSAKI: (Laughs.) I can see if we can get you a rundown. That was not meant to be a naming and shaming. There are some states that just didn’t take that step when the recall was — happened. And we encouraged them to do that in February.
So, today is an opportunity for the Secretary of Agriculture to say, “Now Is the time to do this. If you want to make sure that people in your state who benefit from WIC are getting helped, this is the way to do it.”
Q Okay. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik — and she tweeted something I will read to you — but several other Republican politicians have also gone along this line. She says, “Joe Biden continues to put America last by shipping pallets of baby formula to the southern border as American families face empty shelves.” She says, “This is unacceptable.” Do you have a response to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we do like facts here, so let me just give you a little sense of the facts on this one. There’s something called the Flores statemen- — Settlement, which she may or may not be aware of, that’s been in place since 1997. It requires adequate food and elsewhere, specifies age appropriateness, hence formula for kids under the age of one.
CBP is following the law — that law that has been in place and been followed, by the way, by the past — every administration since 1997.
So this has been a law in the United States for a quarter century. It’s been followed by every administration. And on — but I would also note that we also think it’s morally the right thing to do. You know, and this is a difference from the last administration. It is the law, but we believe that when children and babies — or babies, I should say, are crossing the border with a family member, that providing them formula — formula is morally right. And so we certainly support the implementation of it.
Q If I could — just one last question. The governors of Colorado and Massachusetts have sent a letter to the President urging him to urge the FDA to hurry up and consider Moderna’s application for a vaccine for children under the age of five. Would the President do such a thing? Does the administration have any view on the apparent delay in consideration of that vaccine?
MS. PSAKI: I would say the parents in here have a view, and we all are very eager to bring our children and get them vaccinated who are under the age of five.
But science — this is the President’s view, most importantly — moves at the pace of science. The FDA is the gold standard for a reason. And we want to ensure that when those vaccines are available, when we are taking our kids — bribing them if needed — to get their shots, that it is safe and we know it’s safe.
Q Jen —
MS. PSAKI: I’ll come back. I’m sorry about that. Go — I’ll come back to you. Go ahead, Ashley.
Q As you know, the anniversary of George Floyd’s killing is a little over a week away. As a candidate, President Biden embraced some of the messages about police reform and, later, he even promised George Floyd’s family that he would get something done on the issue. But now, police reform has failed in Congress, there’s no executive order, and today he’s basically asking cities to pump money into police departments. What is the administration’s message for people who had hoped the Biden administration would actually significantly reform policing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say he’s actively considering a police reform executive order and has every intention of doing that. It just takes some time. I understand that since it was — a version of it came out into the public, which happens, back in January, it feels like a long time. But these take a long time. There’s a legal review, a policy review. And he has every intention of doing that.
We actually paused because there was bipartisan negotiations happening. And obviously, that was always the preference, because that would make it more permanent.
I would say that it’s not just about pumping funding into police departments, it’s about ensuring that there are enough cops on the beat to crack down on violent crime, to crack down on illegal guns that are the cause of 77 percent of crimes across the country.
And what he’s also done and the Department of Justice has also done is implemented federal steps like bans on chokeholds and other steps that the President would certainly like to see, you know, implemented across the country and a part of federal law.
So he is going to continue to support the funding of police. He hopes Republicans will join him in supporting his budget. Now, they did not support the $10 billion he announced today because they voted against the American Rescue Plan. And he is — but he is also — supports accountability, and a police reform executive order will be a part of that
Q And pivoting briefly, what advice do you have for Karine as she prepares to step into your role?
Q That you can say in public. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I can — I can say we’re very transparent here, Brian. (Laughter.)
You know, I would say that some of the lessons I’ve learned that I would — I would tell anyone, including Karine — obviously, we’ve had many discussions about this — would be: One, you know, the best — the most important job that you have in this — in this role, I think — tied with another one, but I’ll get to the point — is to project, convey the positions, the policies, the views of the President of the United States.
And every opportunity you have to speak with him, to engage with him, to ask him questions — oftentimes, I will tell you, they are questions that you all have asked me in the Briefing Room or otherwise — it will make you better equipped and even more effective, because our job is to speak on his behalf.
The second thing I would say — and in my heart, I’m a bit of a policy nerd, but I would tell this to anyone — is that the more you know about policy issues and the more you can go in depth on it and spend time digging, pushing, and questioning the policy teams, the better able you will be to answer tough questions, to answer the 12th question, and, hopefully, provide information to the public.
And the last thing I would say is that it can be repetitive in here from time to time. (Laughter.) That’s not a critique. You are all doing your jobs. But in the age of social media, always provide the context and all the details, because you never want to be a meme with one line. That would be my (inaudible).
But, otherwise, be yourself. And Karine, as I said last week, is going to bring her own magic, her brilliance, her style to this briefing room. And always, for anyone who comes after Karine — me or Karine, it’s to continue to make it better and do better for the President and the — and the American people.
Q Very tiny follow-up on that.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q Should we expect that under Karine there will still be daily briefings?
MS. PSAKI: I will let her speak to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: But, yes, that is the plan.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Jen. The $10 billion that’s being announced today, where does the President and the White House kind of — is — does the President see that as something to kind of celebrate? When I look at the original pool — and I realize it’s an initial tranche of $350 billion, and I know there’s different, kind of, competing priorities here — I’m wondering if the White House sees today as sort of another call to action to states to spend even more on police departments.
MS. PSAKI: That’s part of it.
Q Or is this kind of saying “is he impressed” by — that they’ve already spent all this money?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say part of it is he thinks it’s important that it has been spent and he has seen — we have seen the impact of it in some states, you know, that I mentioned — Detroit and Houston, for example.
But part of it is also about the need to spend more. We know $245 billion is what’s been spent to date, so there is more funding left from the American Rescue Plan package. And, certainly, he thinks keeping communities safe, making sure police departments have the resources they need is an important way to spend the money.
Q I just have a quick clarification on the DPA, too. You said the administration is considering the DPA for — to ramp up manufacturing.
MS. PSAKI: It’s one of the options under consideration. Sure.
Q I think there’s two titles under DPA. One would prioritize contracts and say, “Companies, you need to develop this.” Another would allow the federal government to distribute loans, to distribute actual money to companies so that they can ramp up manufacturing. Is the administration considering that provi- — title of DPA, to actually give money?
MS. PSAKI: There’s also options beyond that about the use of specific — to use — there’s a range of ways you can use DPA, so I don’t have specifics about how it might be used.
I would say that we are already working, and we have been working, with manufacturers to increase production. So that is already effectively happening. And the challenge, which I mentioned before, with baby formula is that you — you know, it’s — it’s complex, and you can’t just say to a manufacturing facility that makes cereal, “You need to make baby formula now.”
So it’s a bit challenging and different in that regard. But it is an option. There are a range of utilities and ways you can use it, and it remains under consideration.
Q You said it’s already happening. Title — “It’s already happening.” Title 3 is already happening?
MS. PSAKI: No, no, no. We’re already working with manufacturers to increase production. So that’s one of the part — the aspects or one of the ways to use DPA, but we’re already doing that effectively. So that was the point I was making.
Q Hey, Jen. Thank you. The FDA Commissioner, a little while ago, said that the — he intends to announce plans next week to help streamline the import of baby formula into the U.S. Is there anything you can preview for us on that front and maybe explain some of the hurdles that currently exist that this process would be fixing?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, right now, every kind of baby formula that’s made in other countries is not allowed to be imported here necessarily. So it’s — it’s cutting red tape and easing those restrictions.
Now, as I noted a little bit earlier, what that may mean is that when moms go to the grocery store, they may see a form of baby formula that they have not seen before. And they may have questions about what that is and “Can I feed it to my baby?”
That’s why we have a range of resources and hotlines that people can call to get those questions answered. But, overall, what it’s trying to do is provide more supply so that there can be a range of options and a range of supply on shelves so that mothers don’t have to fear not being able to have formula to feed their children.
Q And I know you said that the administration has been on top of this issue since this issue emerged with the Abbott plant back in February and you’ve been working on this issue since then.
So can you explain why something like this, in terms of streamlining the import of products, wasn’t done sooner, wasn’t done before parents arrived at the supermarket to find empty shelves?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we — we ex- — we believe that part of what’s happening right now is that there was supply that a lot of the larger retailers had. And it was, kind of, six to eight weeks where they had that supply and they haven’t been able to restock it quickly enough.
But we would not be where we are with Gerber increasing production by 50 percent or Reckitt increasing production by 30 percent had we not been working on this from the beginning.
And I would note that what the retailer said yesterday they need the most is these — this flexibility on WIC, because that’s where they see the challenge is coming up.
So that is actually something we did the day after and something that, you know, we’re continuing to push states to do.
Q Is there more, you think, you could have done sooner?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, hindsight is always 20/20. But I would say that we — what’s important to note — as much as this wasn’t being reported on because people were not seeing shortages at the stores as much — we did — there was an announced recall back in February — right? — and there were steps we have been taking every single day since then, the F- — with the FDA in the lead to help address any potential shortage.
Q And lastly, just a quick follow-up on your comments about the images we saw in Israel today. You said that — you just called these images “deeply disturbing” of Israeli police beating mourners who were carrying this casket. You said that “We regret the intrusion.” Do you condemn these actions by Israeli forces? And do you believe that they had any justification for actually beating these mourners and these pallbearers as we saw in these images?
MS. PSAKI: I think, when we said they were disturbing, we obviously were not — were not justifying them.
Q But were condemning them.
MS. PSAKI: But I think I will leave my comments at what I said.
Q Thank you, Jen. I wanted to ask two quick policy questions here. On the House floor earlier today, the Democratic Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, said, quote, “It is unfortunate that in a time of war, that we spend all the time blaming our own President.” Just a clarification: It’s not the White House’s belief that we’re at war or we’re engaged in any kind of conflict?
MS. PSAKI: I think he’s — I did not see the full context of his comments. What I’m betting he was referring to was the war happening in Ukraine with Russia that obviously the U.S. has a stake in, given the amount of military, humanitarian, economic assistance we’ve provided. And as I’ve said before: Of course, the Ukrainians deserve the greatest accolades for their bravery and their courage, but the American people also deserve a lot of gratitude for their sacrifices and their support of this war.
Q And then one more. The President supports the Women’s Health Protection Act, which did not pass in the Senate. And, of course, that would codify Roe, but it would also go beyond that. Some opponents, like Senator Susan Collins, have pointed out that by codifying the federal right to abortion, that the bill would necessarily strike down some state laws restricting certain procedures — for instance, banning sex-selective abortions and laws that require parental notifications for minors seeking an abortion.
So, should we read into the President’s support of that legislation that he also supports overturning state laws that would ban sex-selective abortions or require parental notifications?
MS. PSAKI: The President believes in codifying Roe, and there are a range of ways to do that through Congress.
Q Right. But that wasn’t — but that’s not an answer to the specific policy question. Where is the President on these specific restrictions?
No one here doubts the President supports Roe v. Wade and codifying it, but there’s allegations that this — this proposed bill goes farther. So where does he stand on this specifically?
MS. PSAKI: The bill — the bill failed. The President supports the bill.
Q Thank you, Jen.
Q Yeah, Jen, thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go — go, ahead. Nadia. Go ahead, Nad- — and then I’ll go to you, Ed. And go — yeah. Ladies first.
Q Thank you, Jen. And thank you for your service. And good luck with your new (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: Thank you. Thank you.
Q I have a question and a follow-up. On the question — the Russian ambassador to Vienna said today that under different circumstances, Russia probably could have provided its good offices to the two sides, but not now — referring to the Iran talks. And the EU chief — foreign policy chief said there is enough positivity for the talks to resume.
Do you believe that Russia is an obstacle to going back to the deal? And do you think that there is actually a chance that we can go back to it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say that our belie- — our view on the deal is that Iran needs to decide whether it insists — is going to continue to insist on extraneous conditions and whether it wants to conclude a deal or not.
We believe that concluding a deal would serve all sides’ interests. But while we have certainly condemned the actions of Russia in Ukraine and their — the actions of a war criminal in invading Ukraine, are — the biggest obstacle to an Iran deal moving forward is Iran.
Q And I want to follow up with my colleague’s mention of Shireen Abu Akleh. And I want to emphasize she is an American citizen.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q You know, when American journalists are killed in Ukraine, nobody waits for an investigation; they pinpoint their — you know, (inaudible) to the Russians. Why Israel get away with this? Why not calling for an independent inquiry since Palestinians do not believe that Israel is capable of investigating itself? I mean, this journalist was fully covered in a vest, in a helmet, yet she was targeted under the ear. That means it’s a professional job by a sniper. And many people believe that it was an Israeli soldier who shot her.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we understand it, there are investigations by both sides. We’ve offered our assistance to the Israelis, to the Palestinians, and we’re prepared to provide that should they want it.
Q Thanks, Jen. Two questions. One, do you have a comment on a Texas Supreme Court ruling allowing state officials to conduct abuse investigations of parents with transgender kids?
MS. PSAKI: I have not looked into this specific court case, but I would tell you that any efforts to discriminate against, to bully, to, you know, put transgender kids at risk would be something we would oppose. But I would have to check out more about this specific Court case.
Q On the Summit of the Americas, you’ve mentioned a couple times that invitations have not gone out.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q It is assumed that the President of Mexico and the President of Brazil are invited. You recognize Juan Guaidó as the Interim President of Venezuela. Why is it not assumed he’s getting invited? Why the mystery?
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of conversations going about the final invitation list. I just don’t have a final conclusion on those. And as soon as we do, we will make those — information available to all of you.
Q And then, just to bookend our time at the State Department, I wanted to ask about Israel — a broader question on how the President seems to be the first in the modern era not to put quite an emphasis on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has not appointed a special envoy for the conflict. He has not assigned the portfolio to a top administration official. What should we read into that? What priority is it of his, especially as we see these images coming out of Jerusalem, to personally get involved in dialogue?
MS. PSAKI: I would say first: As it’s always been the case, any envoy would be working out of the State Department. It was the case when I was at the State Department. And we knew each other there. And certainly, you’ve seen the Secretary of State and also the President talk for decades about the need for a two-state solution, how that is the only viable end — way to end an ongoing conflict in the region.
And I would certainly say that remains his view, remains his policy, and — but I would point you to the State Department for any updates on negotiations or on engagement.
Q I have a follow-up on Brittney Griner. Does the President have plans to meet with Brittney Griner’s family like he met with Trevor Reed’s family?
MS. PSAKI: We are in touch with her family, but I don’t have any planned meetings to preview for you at this point in time.
Q And then I have a follow-up on Title 42.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q I know a judge’s ruling hasn’t been made yet, but if he does rule to sort of continue to temporarily delay Title 42 from being lifted, does the Biden administration plan to appeal that?
MS. PSAKI: That would be an announcement made by the Department of Justice.
Q And one more question just regarding that. You know, it seems that the Biden administration has been challenged by the court several times on, you know, immigration efforts that they’ve tried to overturn from the previous administration.
I guess, what concerns does the administration have that this will continue as, you know, immigration is pretty much a pretty big policy, you know, that the Biden administration and President Biden himself has said that he would try to overturn some of these policies that were implemented under the previous administration?
I guess, how does the President feel about some of these
sort of roadblocks that the administration keeps hitting, you know, with judges and the courts not allowing — or further delaying these?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say the biggest roadblock is the fact that the President put forward an immigration bill on his first day in office, and we haven’t been able to move it forward. And there have been efforts to move it forward through the Senate, through the reconciliation process. There have been efforts to try to engage in a way — we’re very open to engaging, have been very open to engaging in a bipartisan way.
There are aspects of his proposal — many aspects — that should not be controversial at all: you know, the effort to invest in smarter security, to fix our broken asylum processing system. Those are our biggest obstacles.
And what is deeply unfortunate is that the need to implement immigration reform to fix a very broken and outdated system has become so political that there’s an unwillingness to engage from the other side on what solutions should be — you know, we can — where we can work together on it.
It wasn’t that long ago when there were bipartisan bills that were being discussed and even almost passing.
Go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah. I want to build on Josh’s question here. You know, CPI inflation is 8.3 percent. We know it’s hard to get baby formula. Gas and diesel fuel is now at record prices again today. House staffers are getting free Peloton memberships. A Monmouth poll says —
MS. PSAKI: Wow, there’s a lot packed into that list there you have. (Laughter.)
Q Yeah, I know.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know how it’s related. It’s a potpourri.
Q Okay, it is potpourri. And — and it’s a wider view. A Monmouth poll shows that 79 percent of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction. So my question is: Is the President — as the head of the country, as the head of the Democratic Party — out of touch economically with Americans?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there was a lot packed in there. And I’m not entirely sure the root of your question, but I will do my best.
I would say first: The President’s top priority — and you heard him say this the other day — is addressing costs and addressing inflation for the American people. And he laid out a specific plan to do exactly that.
And he has taken a number of steps that would — to do exactly that, including lowering the cost of the Internet; ensuring we’re taking every step we can to bring down the cost of gas; taking steps to ease the supply chain — something he’s been working on from his first day in office; and he has proposed and advocated for and continue to fight for a reconciliation package that will lower significant costs for the American people.
I would say the contrast here is what the other side is offering, which, as you’ve heard me say many times but it’s worth repeating, is a plan by Chairman Scott that would raise costs on a hundred — on 75 million Americans who make less than $100,000.
So, I would say: For the American people, what they can know and understand is we all agree inflation is an issue; we all agree costs are too high. The question is: Who has a plan to address it?
Q But on gas specifically, the Interior Secretary testified before the House Appropriations Committee that there was no plan to go forward with a five-year plan for oil drilling in the Gulf. They need that plan in order to open up leases down the road for that. We’ve se- — we saw the Department of Interior cancel a lease sale.
So, are there signals, you know, to bring down gas prices? Are there long-term —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we know the Department of Interior made quite clear that they canceled the Cook Inlet project because there was a lack of industry interest. That’s not actually the issue. The issue, if we take a step back, is that leasing and production offshore is a lengthier process, taking up to 10 years. Mo- — second, of the more than 10.9 million offshore acres currently under lease, industry is not producing on 8.26 million acres. That’s 75 percent that is non-producing. Of the 24.9 million onshore acres under lease, industry is not producing 12.3 million. That’s almost 50 percent. And there are almost 9,000 onshore permits.
The issue is not permits. There are plenty of places for oil — for oil companies to drill on. They’re not. That is the issue.
Q Thank you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead, Patsy.
Q Thank you, Jen. Thank you for your service, and good luck for your next endeavor.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you. I have two questions on the U.S.-ASEAN Summit. As I understand, there are no bilaterals scheduled with the President, but he did have quick private time, as we were told, with each of the leaders.
I have two questions on that. Did the President use the opportunity for his private time to press Indonesian President Joko Widodo to disinvite President Putin from the G20 Summit? That’s number one.
And number two: Which leader did he specifically press on human rights, if any?
MS. PSAKI: The President never holds back in raising human rights issues. I don’t know how long these brief pull-asides were, so I don’t know the range of topics that were discussed. And certainly, his publicly stated position is that we — it should not be business as usual at the G20, which is six months away, and that he does not — and he believes that President Putin should not be a part of that.
Q Just to follow up on the human rights though, Jen: There’s a lot of criticism coming out from human rights activists that the White House hasn’t been strong enough in terms of condemning some of the human rights concerns in the Southeast Asian countries. And you’ve given out statements on the initiatives, you’ve given out statements on maritime security — you know, in terms of regional security, maritime cooperation — but nothing so far on human rights.
So how does the administration respond to that?
MS. PSAKI: I stated very clearly the other day, on Cambodia, that we had had past concerns about human rights, we have made those clear, and we never hesitate to raise concerns about human rights when warranted.
Q Thank you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.
Q We will miss you! We will miss you!
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.
2:32 P.M. EDT