Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 12:12 P.M. EDT MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi, everyone.  Good afternoon.    Q    Good aft

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:12 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi, everyone.  Good afternoon.   

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Welcome back.  I know you guys are excited to be back with us. 

Okay.  So I’d like to introduce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who has joined us here many, many times before.  And we’re excited to have her back today to announce the next steps that the Department of Commerce is taking to implement the $50 billion of CHIPS Act funding.

So, with that, I’m going to let the Secretary take it away.

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Thank you.  Thank you. Hello, everybody.

Q    Hello.

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Hello, everybody.  It’s great to be here.  And this is a very exciting day.  For those of us who are obsessed with and excited about CHIPS, this is a big day.

As you all know, thanks to President Biden’s leadership and the bipartisan work in Congress, we now have an incredible opportunity to unleash the next generation of American innovation, protect our national security, and preserve our global economic competitiveness.

As we have talked about for decades, in the United States, our innovation ecosystem and investments in innovation have been in decline.  And today begins a new chapter in revitalizing U.S. innovation and research and development.  And today we begin to reverse the decline and lead the world again in semiconductor innovation and research and development.

CHIPS for America, as the bill is called, represents a historic investment in our domestic manufacturing industry, which has critical implications for our economic and national security.

With this funding, we’re going to make sure that the United States is never again in a position where our national security interests are compromised or key industries are immobilized due to our inability to produce essential semiconductors here at home.

This past year, we saw the impact of the chip shortage on American families when car prices drove a third of inflation because of lack of chips, factory workers were furloughed, household appliances were often unavailable, all because of a lack of semiconductors.

And as our economy and military become more reliant on technology, it’s that much more essential that we develop a strategy with values, outcomes, and structures that enable us to plan for an economy and manufacturing infrastructure that positions us to compete today and into the future.

So I want to take the next few minutes to lay out for you where we are and how the Department of Commerce plans to implement the $50 billion in CHIPS funding that we will be overseeing.

So with the CHIPS funding, we’re setting out to achieve four primary objectives:

First, to establish and expand domestic production of leading-edge semiconductors in the United States.  Today, the United States consumes more than 25 percent of the world’s leading-edge chips and produces zero of those chips.

Number two, we want to build a sufficient and stable supply of mature node semiconductors.  We consume 30 percent, produce 13 percent.  We need to fix that.

Number three, invest in research and development to ensure the next generation of semiconductor technology is developed and produced right here in the United States.

And number four, in the process of doing all this, we will create tens of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs and more than a hundred thousand construction jobs.  This effort will ensure the pipeline for these jobs expands to include people who have historically not had a chance to participate in this industry, including women, people of color, veterans, and people who live in rural areas.  And that is explicitly required in statute, and we will carry out Congress’s intent.

To achieve these goals, CHIPS for America will support three distinct initiatives.  Two of those initiatives, which total $39 billion, will make investments in domestic chip manufacturing here in the United States.

First, we will make large-scale investments in leading-edge manufacturing.  CHIPS for America will target approximately $28 billion in manufacturing incentives to establish domestic production of leading-edge logic and memory chips that require the most sophisticated processes available today.

Second, we will invest about $10 billion in new manufacturing capacity for mature or current-generation semiconductors.  This will help us increase domestic production across a range of chips, including the chips that are used in cars, medical devices, communication technology.

And third and finally, we’re going to make historic investments to strengthen America’s research and innovation leadership.  Eleven billion dollars — and this is — this is not as talked about; we always focus on the incentives for the companies, but in many ways, this could be the most exciting piece of what we’re doing.  Eleven billion dollars will go to research and development programs, including the creation of a National Semiconductor Technology Center.

In terms of timeline, we expect to be in a position to receive application from companies no later than February of 2023.  So we’re targeting February of 2023 to put the notice of funding opportunity on the street so companies can begin to apply.

Our priority is funding applications for incentive programs.  It will be put out on a rolling basis, and we will evaluate each application one at a time.

Before I close, I want to take a second, or minute, to send a very clear message about how we plan to protect taxpayer dollars in this program.

This is not a blank check for companies.  This is not for them to pad their bottom line.  There are clear guardrails on this money, and the Department of Commerce intends to be vigilant and aggressive in protecting taxpayers.

CHIPS funds cannot be used for stock buybacks.  CHIPS funds are not intended to replace private capital.  That is key.  We’re going to look after every nickel of taxpayer money.  Taxpayer funds are only used to fill gaps and secure other funding as loan guarantees, not to replace private capital.

These funds are intended to help companies maximize the scale of their projects.  We’re going to be pushing companies to go bigger and be bolder.  So if a company already has funding now for a $10 billion project, we want them to think bigger and convince us how they can go from $10 billion to $50 billion with use of the taxpayer financing.

We — Commerce Department has the ability to claw back money.  And make no mistake about it: We will use that clawback authority if, after giving the money to a company, they fail to start their project on time, fail to complete their project on time, fail to meet the commitments that they’ve made.

We’re also going to be implementing the guardrails to ensure those who receive CHIPS funds cannot compromise national security by — they’re not allowed to use this money to invest in China, they can’t develop leading-edge technologies in China, they can’t send latest technology overseas.

These are some of the most stringent taxpayer protections and guardrails we’ve ever had, and the American people are counting on us to get it right.  And it’s a responsibility that we take very seriously. 

I’ll just end by saying — by thanking the President and by thanking Congress for their leadership.  No one has done more to revitalize American manufacturing than President Biden, and CHIPS for America is a key component of that work.

With this, we’re going to jumpstart high-tech manufacturing and drive economic growth.  We’re going to create the kinds of jobs that will create opportunity for Americans — high-wage jobs that we want our children to have.  We’re going to revitalize an innovation ecosystem that for decades has been withering and will add rocket fuel to our global competitiveness, ensuring that America maintains its status as a leader for generation to come.

First and foremost, this is about protecting our national security and providing a blueprint for long-term economic prosperity.

And so we’re excited.  People say to me, “Secretary, CHIPS passed.  What do you do now?”  Now we get to work, and we’re excited to begin that work.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  We’re just going to take a couple questions.  We have to get out of here by a certain time today, as you all know.

Go ahead, Phil.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Madam Secretary.  On your point about taxpayer protections, there seems to be kind of a natural tension here in the sense that a huge sum of money, very clear urgency on the government side, finite universe of private sector entities who can probably take advantage of this.  Walk me through how this actually works in terms of ensuring that those companies don’t have leverage, given how much the federal government wants to kick this into high gear.

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Yeah, great question.  So, today we put out our strategy document, which I’m sure you’ve all read every word of.  So we put out the strategy document today, which sets forth our principles and criteria at a high level.  And now we begin the work of putting forth, between now and February, more granular criteria and strings attached.

So what we know is companies who receive CHIPS fundings can’t use those fundings — funds to invest in other countries, can’t use them for stock buybacks. 

Companies who receive CHIP funds can’t build leading-edge or advanced technology facilities in China for a period of 10 years.  Companies who receive the money can only expand their mature node factories in China to serve the Chinese market.  So there — this is what we know.

What I can tell you is we’re also right now recruiting a team at the Commerce Department of experts.  We’re going to have folks who have a history of hard-nosed negotiation from the private sector, people who are semiconductor industry experts, and we’re going to negotiate these deals one at a time and really putting the screws to these companies to prove to us — we’re going to need proof from them to us in the form of financial disclosures, in capital investment plans — prove to us the money is absolutely necessary to make these investments. 

They’re not going to get any more than necessary to make these investments.  And as I said in the beginning, this isn’t money to make them more profitable or pad their bottom line, it’s the money to make these investments and also invest in the community.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jordan.

Q    Thanks.  On a different topic, CFIUS is reviewing the situation with TikTok.  When do you expect that will resolve itself, that review?  And will the administration, after that review, take any action to ban TikTok?  Or short of that, how would the administration expect to address security concerns presented by the app by the government of China?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Yeah, so as you say, it’s under review, and I have nothing more on that today.

Q    On what — on another thing that has been a ball in the air — China tariffs.  I know USTR made an announcement about that last week, but that wouldn’t necessarily preclude the administration from lifting tariffs on some goods.  Where does that stand right now?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Also I have nothing on that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Alex?  Oh, I’m sorry.  (Laughs.)

Q    I was actually going to ask those very same questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    If you don’t mind — if you don’t mind, though — on the tariff question, you know, it’s been in the public domain for quite some time.  Is it fair to assume that’s not going to happen before the midterms?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  I don’t have anything else to say.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  On topic?

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  If it’s on topic, go ahead.  (Laughs.)

Q    It’s really on topic.  You talk about this — about this stringent review and the information is going to be posted by February.  Bottom line for us: How quickly is an American going to get hired with this money?  And how quickly before somebody is buying a phone with one of these American-made chips in it?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Yeah.  So, great question.  You —

Q    And then I have a follow-up to that.

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  You’ve already seen chip companies making big announcements.  Micron is announcing a huge new facility.  I was just in New Hampshire; onsemi is breaking ground on a new facility.  Intel announced a new facility.

These investments have been made by these companies because the CHIPS Act passed, and they have confidence now that the money will be put out the door.

So you’re going to — I can’t answer you — you know, how quickly exactly a specific chip is going to come.  But the point is, you’re already seeing it.  GlobalWafers made an announcement — $5 billion investment in Texas.  So I’d say immediately; the effects are immediately being felt.

In terms of our process, February, like you said, we’ll begin the process.  I think you can start — I’m going to hope to start putting money out the door, you know, next spring to specific companies.

Here’s the thing: There’s going to be a range of projects.  There’ll be smaller, simpler projects, maybe for expansion of existing facilities.  And then there’ll be very large, complex, leading-edge projects.

I think you could see in the spring of next year some of the smaller money going out the door.

Q    And do — you listed a very stringent list of criteria: It can’t be invested into stock buybacks; can’t be for chips that get made or sold in China, unless they’re for the Chinese market; a bunch of other things.  Do you know that companies exist right now that are willing to meet those stringent demands?  Do you check that before you publish them?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Yes.

Q    So they’re ready to go —

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Yes.

Q    — with what’s there?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Yes.

Q    And do you at the Commerce Department then have the money necessary to hire those top-notch negotiators, the specialists —

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Yes.

Q    — or do you need more from Congress?  Because often —

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Yes.

Q    — what ends up happening: We get a big government announcement — “multibillion dollars; here it comes from the federal government” — and three years later, we’re writing stories, telling stories about how that money was mismanaged and the department that was overseeing it didn’t have enough.  You’re saying you do?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Yes, I do.  What we’re doing right now is we’re in the process of hiring about 50 people.  We do have the money.  They will be expert.  And I have absolute confidence we will be able to do this.

Also, the answer to your first question is — again, Micron wouldn’t be announcing a massive expansion in Idaho if CHIPS weren’t passed.  So, yes, they know the strings are attached.  And, yes, they will operate under those strings.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Final question.  Ed, it’s so good to have you back, my friend.  (Laughs.)

Q    Thank you, Secretary.  Can you talk a little bit more about the protections or guardrails from doing work with China?  Just — you know, the administration was reportedly pushing back on Intel’s plans or publicly announced plans to boost silicon wafer production in China.  Has that — has that kind of plans stopped?  And will that prevent companies like Intel from getting this kind of funding?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  So, as — as I’ve said, if they take the money, they can’t use the money to invest in China, they can’t build a leading-edge fab in China for a period of 10 years.  If they expand their mature node factories in China, it’s only to serve the Chinese market.  And, by the way, if they take money and then do any of those things, we’ll claw back the money.

Q    If — if they — this was announ- — as I understand it, this was announced previously.  Is there like some type of grandfather clause?  Will they be able to start this production now?  Or does — does that — does the fact that they had already announced this allow them to make — to continue with those plans?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  We’re going to take it on a case-by-case basis.  Here’s what I will tell you: The number-one objective of implementing this is to protect America’s national security.  Every deal we do, every criteria that we evaluate these companies against, it’s going to be with a lens toward protecting national security.  So we’re not going to allow any deals to happen that we think undermine our national security.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Thank you, Secretary.  Appreciate it.

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  See you in a little bit.

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  All right.  Bye, guys.  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Thanks, everybody.  Thank you, Secretary Raimondo. 

All right.  I have one thing at the top.  And as you all know, we probably have about 30 minutes or so for the next event that the President has, so we all have to get out of here in 30 minutes. 

Okay, so I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the attack in Canada over the weekend.  It is senseless and devastating.  I won’t get ahead of the Canadian law enforcement as they continue their work.  Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrific attack.  We stand with Canada, our ally and neighbor, and all those affected by this tragedy, and condemn this senseless violence. 

With that, Seung Min, you want to kick us off?

Q    Yeah.  I saw the President’s tweet congratulating Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister of the UK.  Has he spoken with her or does he plan to later today?  What is his plans? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So he’s going to speak to her later today, this afternoon.  He’s planning to call her to congratulate her — the new Prime Minister.  And so that — that’s going to happen later this afternoon. 

Q    And I have another one on the fatal shooting of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.  The Israeli military has now said there’s a, quote, “high probability” that an Israeli soldier accidentally killed her, but they also said that no one will be held responsible.  So I wanted to know the White House’s reactions to the Israeli military’s conclusions and also whether it is acceptable to the President that no one will be held accountable in that death.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I know this report came out yesterday, as it was reported by the Israeli Defense Forces, as you just said.  We have extended our deepest condolences to the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, a renowned Palestinian American journalist who was killed in the West Bank.  We strongly condemn this killing, as we have for the past several months.  Ms. Abu Akleh was an inspiration to millions and a friend to many in the U.S. government.  Her death is a great loss and a tragedy. 

We continue to call on all sides to maintain calm and avoid further escalation.  As you just mentioned and I just said, it was reported yesterday that it had con- — the Israeli Defense Forces had concluded its investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death and stated there was a high possibility that her death — was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire, as you just mentioned, Seung Min. 

We welcome Israelis’ review of this tragic incident, and we underscored the importance of accountability in this case, such as policies and procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.  Our thoughts remain with Abu Akleh’s family as they grieve this tremendous loss. 

Not only was Shireen an American citizen, as I just mentioned, she was a fearless — a fearless reporter whose journalism and pursuit of truth earned her the respect of audience around the world.

Go ahead. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  President Biden said last night he didn’t think Russia should be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, even after President Zelenskyy, in an interview with ABC’s David Muir, said he had asked the President about taking that step.  Why does the President think that?  And is this about keeping limited diplomatic channels open still? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So as the President has said, as — and as we do think as well — as — you know, it is not the most effective or strongest path forward, as we have said many times before, to hold Russia accountable.  This designation could have unintended consequences to Ukraine and the world.  For example, according to humanitarian expert and NGOs we have spoken to, it could seriously affect the ability to deliver assistance in areas of Ukraine. 

Another one is it could drive critical humanitarian and commercial actors away from facilitating food exports to help mitigate the global food crisis and jeopardize the Black Sea port deal that has already led to over a million tons of Ukrainian food exports reaching the world, including those on the — on the Horn of Africa likely facing famine. 

It would also undercut our unprecedented multilateral condition that has been so effective to holding Putin accountable and could also undermine our ability to support Ukraine at the negotiating — negotiation table.

So, again, we do not think this is the most effective way to go or the strongest path forward. 

Q    There are also concerns about potentially inadvertently punishing allies who might still have trade relations with Russia.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, what we have done is we’ve already put in place severe consequences in line with those that would be imposed under such designation.  Our sanctions export controls affect — efforts to further isolate Russia from the global economy or — are having a significant impact.  So that’s the way we kind of have seen with the work that we’ve already done. 

Under this, Russia defaulted on its foreign debt for the first time in more than a century.  As we have said, we are choking off Russia’s military supply chains.  For example, Russia has to rely on North Korea, as you all heard, and Iran for military equipment.  And just last week, the G7 committed to implement a price cap to push down the price of Putin’s oil and starve him of his main source of revenue to fund this war.

So again, we are, of course, support — we, of course, are going to support using further tools that will work to promote accountability for Russia’s war against Ukraine.  And so that’s going to be our focus as we move forward.

Go ahead.

Q    When the President speaks with the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, will he discuss the Northern Ireland arrangements?  Is there an expectation that he’ll call on the Prime Minister to delay implementation of the protocol bill that she has supported that would allow the United Kingdom to override the provisions of the agreement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?  How’s that going to come into the conversation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m not going to get ahead or speak to what the President might say or will say on the call.  I’ll say this: that we’ll have a readout after the call later this afternoon.  But he has been clear about his continued interest in Northern Ireland. 

Our priority remains protecting the gains of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and preserving peace, stability, and prosperity for the people of Northern Ireland.  Again, I’m not — I’m not going to get ahead of what the President will or won’t say.

Q    Okay.  And the UK is obviously going through some serious economic concerns.  They have an energy crisis that’s going on.  Is there any room for aid, assistance, or more to be done in terms of supporting them on lowering energy costs domestically?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So you’ve heard us say this: that what we see Russia is doing — we’ve been very clear about this — is that they’re using energy — they’re weaponizing energy.  And it’s choosing to — one of the things that has been out there — the shutdown of the pipeline of Nord Strom [Stream] 1

So the sanction we’ve imposed, we believe, do stand in the way of the pipeline to continuing operating.  So the U.S. and Europe have been collaborating to ensure sufficient supplies are available.  As a result of these efforts, European gas shortage [storage] will be full by the critical winter heating season.  So we have more work to do, but, again, we’re working closely with our allies on this.

Q    And then one final one.  Is there any status update on U.S.-UK trade negotiations?  And do you expect that to be a topic on the call with the new Prime Minister?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have any updates on that. Again, I’m not going to get ahead of what’s going to be on the call with the — what the President is going to say to the new Prime Minister.  We’ll have — certainly we’ll have a readout for all of you once it’s done.

Go ahead.

Q    Just one question.  The President tweeted earlier today, “I want to be clear: Not every Congressional Republican is a MAGA Republican.”  He went on to say — to talk about “an extreme set of MAGA Republicans in Congress.”  But he’s also said frequently over the last several days — talked about how not one Republican backed the agenda that he’s had in — for example, the Inflation Reduction Act or the Recovery Act.  And more broadly, he’s talked about how the Republican Party is “not your grandfather’s Republican Party,” that the whole party has changed. 

So can you talk a little bit about what he’s — what group of people does he think are MAGA Republicans?  Does he — when he says not one Republican supported the agenda — so does that mean that every Republican in Congress is essentially a MAGA Republican?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So he’s been very clear when he’s talked about MAGA Republicans — ultra-MAGA Republicans.  He’s talked about the leadership in the Republican Party. 

For — one of the first time he actually used that term was to talk about Rick Scott’s plan, which was, to your point, using a — an agenda that they had, which was to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block.  And for him, that was an extreme measure that is taking away something that was — if you’re thinking about it, Medicare, Social Security, very popular.  That is — a majority of Americans support that, as well as the — as well as the Inflation Reduction Act.  Majority of the Republi- — of — sorry, Republicans and Democrats and independents support those policies.  And you have leaders in — in the Republican Party who are offering extreme, extreme agenda.  And so that’s what he means. 

And let me just — I’ll just quote the President.  On Friday, he took, actually, Peter’s question — the only reporter that he took a question from on Friday.  And he said, in answering your question about this — (laughter) — I know I — I’m only saying that because Peter felt a certain way that I didn’t take his question on Friday in the briefing room. 

But the President did take your question that day. 

Q    (Inaudible) feels like that all the time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  Well, I hear you. 

Q    Word travels fast.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Word — word — there we go. 

Okay, so, “When people vote — voted for Donald Trump” — this is the — this is President Biden — “and support him now, they weren’t voting for attacking the Capitol.  They weren’t voting for overruling an election.  They were voting for a philosophy he put forward. 

So I’m not talking about anything other than: It’s inappropriate — and it’s” — “it’s not only happening here, but other parts of the world — where there’s a failure to recognize and condemn violence whenever it is used for political purposes, failure to condemn an attempt to manipulate electoral outcomes, a failure to acknowledge when elections were won or lost.”

And so that is from the President — what he thinks.  He’s talking about a — the leadership.  He’s talking about the leadership who put out extreme agenda.  Also the — also talking, in what I just laid out, in not condemning violence when there’s violence out there.

Q    So just one quick follow-up.  But, you know, while it’s — you know, you can talk about what people meant or didn’t mean, or — by voting in the 2020 election.  But there are lots of Republican — just regular Republican voters who do support, for example, Rick Scott’s, you know, ideas about what to do with the budget or what to do with Social Security or entitlement programs.  There’s lots of Republican voters who do agree with the President that they think the election was — with the former President, I mean — but — but that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  No, I hear you.

Q    — the election.  So — so does he consider — does the President consider all of those people who support these extreme agendas that he’s talking about to be the MAGA Republicans that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So he was has been very clear that he’s talking about office holders.  He’s talking about elected officials who have these MAGA — ultra-MAGA Republican agendas. And he’s been very clear about that. 

Look, here’s the thing: The point that we are making is majority of Americans support Medicare.  Majority of Americans support Social Security.  Majority of Americans support our democracy and want to protect our democracy, want to protect our freedom, want to protect our rights, and that’s who the President is going to continue to stand up for and fight for.

I’m going to try and call on people I haven’t called on yet.  Go ahead.

Q    Karine, thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Since we don’t have a lot of time.

Q    A follow for you on the questions about Russia and the President’s decision not to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.  Is that a final decision by President Biden?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, it is.  I mean, I’ll let his words stand for himself.  He answered it pretty simply.  I just laid out why we think it wouldn’t be the strongest path forward.  I laid out three reasons. 

Also, we want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs in case it has to go to the negotiation table.  So it is very important that we give them the strongest — the strongest, you know, negotiation arm that they can have.

Q    And did the President directly convey that to President Zelenskyy before publicly saying that he had made that decision?  And has he conveyed it to members of Congress, leaders in Congress?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I can’t speak to conversation — private conversation specifically on this that the President had with members of Congress or President Zelenskyy.  As you know, they spoke recently.  We laid out a readout of what that conver- — how that conversation went and what was discussed.

Q    And what about congressional leaders?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I just said I can’t speak to what conversations that the President had — private conversations that he’s had with members of Congress.

Q    Can you tell us when, specifically, he made that determination because of this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a — a timeline. 

Q    Or (inaudible) made.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I — well, I don’t have a timeline on when he made that decision.  He was asked that directly yesterday.  He answered that very straightforward — in a straightforward way.  I just laid out what our concerns are with that.

Q    And can you just update us — Karine, I know you’ve answered some version of this question before, but as we’re sort of starting in September here: Has the President or anyone within the administration been briefed on the intelligence community’s assessment of the classified or sensitive documents that have been retrieved at Mar-a-Lago?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.  No.

Q    And is there a protocol for that, I mean, given that we are talking about sensitive government documents?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, again — and I’ve said this many times at this podium, we have said this many times on your air — your airwaves — which is: We are just — we get the interest.  We understand the interest.  We’re not going to comment on an ongoing, independent investigation, as anything that’s related to it.  This is something that the President has been very clear about in making sure there is no political interference and making sure that the Department of Justice has that independence when it comes to investigations.  So I’m just not going to comment anything related to it.

Q    One more quick, on a different topic.  But just following up on the questions about the “MAGA Republicans,” the President is very firm in his language and direct, saying that the former President and MAGA Republicans he believes pose a threat to America’s democracy.  Does he then denounce the efforts by some Democrats to prop up Republicans who support the MAGA agenda in the primaries?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to talk about political action or what is happening in the midterms. 

Q    Just broadly speaking —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I’m just — that is —

Q    — does the administration see this (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I am not going to talk anything that’s related to the midterms or politics as well.  I cannot, standing where I am and also the role that I have. 

I’m going to go to the back and then I’ll come back front.  I’ll come back.

Q    Karine, thanks —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  I haven’t — go ahead, sir.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you, Karine.  Thank you very much.  Does — does President Biden — President Biden is the current holder of executive privilege.  And does President Biden believe that Trump can claim executive privilege for government documents that he took with him to Florida?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, anything related to the independent investigation — again, independent investigation that’s being done by the Department of Justice — we’re not going to comment, regardless of content or any underlying material.  I’m not going to comment from here. 

Q    Well, the judge — Judge Cannon, herself, said that Biden hadn’t weighed in.  That’s refuted in the National Archives letter.  But does President Biden have an opinion on — and has he exerted his opinion on whether executive privilege applies to former President Trump after he left office, after he left on January 20th, 2021?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Not — it is — I’m not going to comment about what the — what the judge said yesterday, the court has laid out.  Again, that is for the Department of Justice, this whole independent investigation.  I’m just not going to comment on it at this time.

Go ahead, Courtney.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I wanted to ask you: The Department of Veterans Affairs put out an interim rule this morning on access to abortion, offering veterans abortion in special instances.  I know we had the conversation in here shortly after the fall of Roe, about this idea of doctors performing abortion procedures on federal land, and even talked about how that wasn’t the best path forward at the time.  What changed?  And what do you believe is the legal justification to make this happen at VA clinics? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I would leave that to the Veterans Affairs Department; that is their decision to make.  And I would refer you to them on that particular question. 

I’m going to get around because we don’t have a lot of time at all. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister — (inaudible) Prime Minister Modi gave a call to communicate India a developed country in the next 25 years — at least 2047, when India celebrates its 100 years of independence.  As you know, this year is the 75th year of India’s independence.  In what way U.S. can — U.S. can help India — assist India in making it a developed nation by 2047, or in the next 25 years?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So the United States and, as you know, India — and I’ve said this to you before in this room — will continue to work together every day to deliver opportunities, security, freedom, and dignity to our peoples.  We are partners in many important areas, including defense, vaccines, climate, tech, and our ever-growing people-to-people connections. 

The United States will continue to work with India to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific and address the challenges both our countries face around the world.  That is our commitment that we have in our partnership with India.

Q    And secondly, what is the President’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan right now, a year after the Taliban took the power there?

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

Q    What is the President’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan right now, a year after the Taliban took the power?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we are — we are committed to supporting the Afghan people, and we have said that many times before.  And we are proud to be the largest single provider of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.  We are working closely with the United Nations and other partners to provide this assistance directly to the Afghan people without benefit to the Taliban.

We will remain vigilant against any terrorism threats directed at the United States or our allies, as we have demonstrated just recently in July, as you know, when we took out the leader of al Qaeda. 

And we will continue to prioritize relocation efforts to our Afghan allies and welcome our Afghan allies to the United States since our commitment to them is enduring. 

So we will also continue to press the Taliban for the safe release of Mark Frerichs and to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghans, including women and girls.  And that is our — going to continue to be our commitment. 

I’m just going to go around to folks I haven’t called on, and then I’ll come down to here, Peter.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  There are multiple inspector general posts where the President has yet to nominate a permanent IG.  There may be someone acting there, but has yet to nominate a permanent IG at the State Department — hasn’t had a permanent IG since before President Biden took office.  So what is the President doing, what is the White House doing behind the scenes to find those permanent IGs for those really important positions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So it’s a great question.  I don’t have anything here to read out or lay out to you about our process in filling the permanent IGs.  I would refer you to State Department specifically on anything — on what they have — what they have laid out and how they’ve worked through that. 

I don’t have any updates on any — naming anyone or anything that we have to share or to preview to you as well.

Q    Yes, I understand.  But these are the President’s nominees.  State Department doesn’t make that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, but you also asked me what is it that we’re doing as well.  So I — that’s why I said you should go to State Department to figure out what is it that they’re been doing while we’re trying to figure out the permanent IGs.  I don’t have anything to preview at this time on our process or where we are on that particular question.

Q    And then really briefly on student loans.  I know the administration has encouraged people who are applying for loan forgiveness, when that opens up, to do so by November 15th.  But is there kind of an end deadline?  When is the last time people can apply for that?  Is there some sort of deadline, considering, of course, that this would already have to be debt that’s already been accrued?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we’ve — we’ve talked about this — I talked about this last week — about the timeline and how that’s going to work. 

And you mentioned November 15th.  So — so that’s in order — we do — we are saying that in order to receive before the payment pause, which expires on December 31st, 2022.  So that’s why we want — as you want to get that relief, we want to also — and the pause is coming off.  That’s the best way to make sure that as those two things are happening, and you’re not put in a bind — America is not put in a bind — that’s why we recommend doing it by November 15th. 

But the Department of Education will continue to process applications as they are received, even after the pause expires on December 31st.  So it’ll be continuing.  The reason why we give the deadline of November 15 is because we know the pause is going to be lifted.  So to give — as we have said, we want to make sure that we give Americans a little bit of breathing room.  And that’s why we have that deadline.

Q    So people can apply into 2023?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, they can.  Yes. 

Okay.  Oh, Peter, go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A follow-up about the MAGA Republican attention.  So if we’re all in agreement that it is incorrect to say the 2020 election was stolen, what about the 2016 election?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to go back to where we were or what happened in 2016.  We’re going to focus on the here and now.  We’re going to focus on what’s happening today — this inflection point that the President pointed out, very clearly, very decisively in a few speeches about what the country needs to do at this time to bring the country together. 

And he believes that’s where a majority of Americans are when it comes to protecting our democracy, when it comes to protecting our rights, and when it comes to protecting our freedoms.  That’s what we’re going to talk about.  That’s what we’re going to focus on — on where we are today.

Q    But just in trying to understand the new attention on the MAGA Republicans, you tweeted in 2016 —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I knew this was coming.

Q    — Trump “stole” an election.  You tweeted —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I was waiting, Peter, when you were going to ask me that question.  (Laughs.)

Q    Well, great.  Here we go.  You tweeted Trump “stole” an election.  You tweeted Brian Kemp “stole” an election.  If denying election results is extreme now, why wasn’t it then?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So let’s — let’s — let’s be really clear: That — that comparison that you made is just ridiculous.  I have been — I have been —

Q    How is that ridiculous?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you’re asking me — you’re asking me a question. 

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Let me answer it.

Q    And you said it was ridiculous. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I was — I was talking specifically at that time of what was happening with voting rights and the — what was in danger of voting rights.  That’s what I was speaking to at the time. 

And here’s the thing: I have said Governor Kemp won the election in Georgia.  I’ve been clear about that.  I have said President Trump won the election of 2016.  And I’ve been clear about that. 

What we are talking about right now is — let’s not forget what happened on January 6th, 2021, when we saw an insurrection — a mob that was incited by the person who occupied this campus, this facility at that time.  And it was an attack on our democracy. 

Let’s not forget people died that day.  Law enforcement were attacked that day.  That was the danger that we were seeing at the time.  That’s what the President has called out.  And that’s what he’s going to continue to call out.

So, yes, when you have MAGA Republicans — a extreme part of Republicans who for — who just deny or do not want to really say what exactly happened on that day, or say it was a protest when it clearly was not a peaceful protest — that’s not what we saw on that day — yes, the President is going to call that out.

And here’s the thing: Majority of Americans agree with him, majority of Americans agree with this President on protecting our democracy, protecting our freedom, and protecting our rights.  That’s what we’re talking about today, and that’s what the President is going to focus on. 

All right, we’re going to have to move.  We’re going to have to move.  I’m going to call on folks I haven’t called on.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I’m just wondering if you have any sort of preview for the event tomorrow with former President Obama and former First Lady Obama. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I do.  I do. 

So, tomorrow, President Biden is looking forward to welcoming back President Obama and Michelle Obama to the White House for the unveiling of their official White House portraits. 

Over the course of their eight years together in office, a close partnership between the two men grew through the highs and lows of the job and life — and of life.  President Biden and Dr. Biden are honored to have former President Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama back to the White House for the unveiling of their portraits, which will hang on the walls of the White House forever as reminders of the power of hope and change.

Q    And obviously, this ceremony is happening, as per in recent history, tradition: predecessor and successor.  Obviously, it didn’t happen under the last administration.  Would President Biden hold the same ceremony for President Trump should his portraits be done before his first term?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we — we defer those questions to the White House Historical Association who actually — they lead the process on official portraits for both presidents and their spouses.  So that question goes — lies with them.

Q    And is there any more interaction that the former President and current President will have tomorrow?  Or is it just the ceremony?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything else to share at this time.  If we — if there’s more interaction or more to share, we certainly will. 

Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Going back to the new UK Prime Minister, can you talk a little bit about what President Biden’s relationship is with her?  Has he met with her in the past?  Does he know her well?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s a good question.  I can go back and actually ask to see if they have a prior relationship.  But I do want to say this, as we talk about the change that’s happening — the new Prime Minister: Our countries have a close, longstanding, special relationships as friends and NATO Allies.  And we are looking forward to continued close cooperation on key priorities, including supporting Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression and addressing the challenges posed by China. 

So we see our relationship not just with the leadership, but also the people of the UK.

Q    Karine, is the President planning to call —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to try and call on people who I haven’t called.

Q    Is the President planning to call the President of Kenya, the new (inaudible) — President-elect of Kenya?

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I want to ask you about the question about migrants and whether they have or haven’t been walking across the southwest border.  Senator Ted Cruz has publicly invited, suggested that you come down to see that for yourself.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Who?  Wait, who?

Q    Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.  He’s — he’s suggested that you come down and see for yourself whether migrants are actually crossing the border by foot.  Is that something that you would take him up on?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ve been to the border.  I went in 2018.  I stood outside facilities where the Trump administration was separating families, tearing babies out of their mothers’ arms.  Some of those kids still haven’t been reunited with their families. 

And so, one thing I will say is I certainly don’t need lectures or invitations from Republicans about the border or border policies.  And — you know, and I certainly won’t take advice on border from anyone who voted against securing record level of funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

And — and, you know, and while folks are sending invites, I’ll use this opportunity to — to invite him or anyone else next time to vote for record funding for DHS, as President Biden has requested.  So we’ll move on.

Q    And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Nope, we’ll move on from that.

Q    And — quick question.  On the migrants who drowned last week near Eagle Pass, what is the administration doing to avert those kinds of tragedies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So that is a tragic — that is tragic when we hear news like that.  Our hearts go out to the families certainly.  And — and that is what we try to work very hard to do: to secure the border and make sure that we don’t see those types of — those tragedies and heartbreaks. 

So, I know the Department of Homeland Security is working very hard on — to continuing to secure our border, to do work that was not done in the past several years.  And so we’re going to continue to focus on that.

Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Karine, a question on Kenya.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.  Kenya.  What’s — what’s going on?

Q    Since you just spoke about the President calling the new Prime Minister of the UK, is he planning to call the President-elect of Kenya after it was affirmed — his victory was affirmed by the supreme court yesterday?  And is he also planning to call the new President of Angola — the President and the President-elect (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have — I spoke to Angola a couple of times last week.  And the President actually took a question, I know, on Angola, specifically, about 10 days or so.

On — on Kenya, I’ll say this: We congratulate William Ruto on his election as President of Kenya.  We also congratulate the people of Kenya on the conclusion of a peaceful electoral process.  We commend Raila Odinga and other candidates for abiding by the supreme court filing.  Transparent electoral processes and the peaceful adjudication of disputes are testaments to the strength of democratic institutions.

The United States and Kenya share a strong and longstanding partnership based on a commitment to democracy, security, economic prosperity.  We look forward to enhancing this partnership with President Ruto and his new government.

I don’t have any calls to read out or preview for you at this time.

Q    And then, on Ethiopia: Last Friday, you talked about the special envoy, Michael Hammer, going to Ethiopia.  The main problem in Ethiopia right now, especially around Tigray, is about the blockade that’s been there for almost 21 months.

Is the President, is the special envoy going to press Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to lift the blockade and grant access to the 6 million people who have been sealed off?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m not going to get ahead of the special envoy.  I know we announced that, as you mentioned, last week.  I’m not going to get into any conversation that he may potentially have.

Clearly, this is a priority for this President.  And when we will have more to share, we’ll share more.  I got to —

Q    Can —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I got to jump around. 

Q    One last question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, no.  I got to jump around.  I got to jump around.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you so much.  I’ve got a question on Israel and Iran tensions.  Israel is on high alert, and the Prime Minister of Israel has talked about taking unilateral action against Iran’s nuclear program.  Will the Biden administration back any Israeli action against Iran’s nuclear program?  And can you update us a little bit on the Mossad chief?  He’s in town.  Who has he been meeting with?  What’s he been doing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t have anything to share about Mossad being in town.  It had been announced several weeks now that he would be.  Don’t have more to share on that.

Look, I’m going to — when it comes to the JCPOA, you know, I’m going to keep it very, very simple here.  We’ve said this many times: We have taken a deliberate and principled approach to these negotiations from the start.  If Iran is prepared to comply with comments — with its commitments under 2015 deal, then we are prepared to do the same.

The administration, along with our allies, is preparing equally for scenarios with or — and without a mutual return to the — to the full implementation of the JCPOA.

The President will only conclude a deal that he determines in the national security interest of the United States.  Again, not going to negotiate, not going to have conversations or hypotheticals of what may or may not happen.  We have been very clear about what we intend here, and it’s to make sure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.  And that is our ultimate goal here.

Q    Can I follow up on President Abbas?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, no, we’re just going to — we’re going to move around because I literally have two minutes.

Go ahead.

Q    I actually want to follow up on the Iran nuclear deal question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    What is the timeline that President Biden is looking at before the State Department diplomats sort of say “time’s up”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have a timeline for you.  I can give you an update on the status of the negotiations.

Look, it’s a regular back-and-forth.  As we have said, we are studying the response in coordination with our E3 allies.  As you know, we have received a response.  Again, we’re not going to negotiate in public.  Some gaps have closed in recent weeks but others have remained.

As you all know, the President will only, again, conclude a deal that he determines is in the national security interest of the United States.  I’m not — I’m not going to get into further detail or negotiate from here.

I can take one last question.  One last question.

Q    Can I ask about Shireen, my colleague?  Can you — you read the message — the statement about Shireen Abu Akleh.  The administration continues to talk about accountability, but there hasn’t been any.  There have been no charges.  What is the Biden administration going to do to press for accountability?  What steps are going to be taken?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So what I can tell you is that we have been — we have been in constant communication, we have been very public about making sure that there is accountability.  The U.S. Security Coordinator — the USCC, as it relates to the investigation, finding that there was no reason to believe the killing was intentional and it was instead the result of tragic circumstances is based on a series of engagements and a review of the totality of the available evidence, situational and environmental factors.

Again, you know, our profound condolences go to the family.  We hear their concerns.  We understand their concerns.  The examin- — examination was conducted by two members, again, of the USCC with over 42 combined years of forensic expertise.

In addition to the forensic and bal- — ballistic analysis, the USCC was granted full access to both Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian Authority investigation.  By summarizing both investigation, the USCC concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.  The USCC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances. 

Again, you know, our hearts go out to the family members. 

And I’m — I have to go.  It’s 1:03. 

Q    But just very quickly —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll be back tomorrow.  I’ll be —

Q    This isn’t accountability.  I — how do journalists in this room read this?  I mean, it feels almost like our government doesn’t have our back, that an ally can — can kill an American journalist with impunity.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I disagree.  I disagree.  One thing that this President has been very clear about making sure that we stand up for a journalist; we stand up for the freedom that they should be given in order to report, whether it’s here or across the globe.  And — and the President has always been clear about fighting for human rights.  That will never change.

He has talked about it boldly and clearly.  And — and he’s talked about it with leaders as well.  So that is something that he respects — the freedom of speech — and he’ll continue to speak to that.

All right, guys.  I got to go.

1:05 P.M. EDT