Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, September 23, 2022

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, September 23, 2022

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 2:50 P.M. EDT MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Happy Friday.  Okay, a couple thing

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:50 P.M. EDT
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Happy Friday.  Okay, a couple things at the top.
 
So, yesterday, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a non-profit organization representing more than 60,000 physicians, sounded the alarm about a nationwide abortion ban proposed by Republican officials that would put doctors in jail for providing women with essential healthcare.
 
Under Senator Graham’s ban, doctors and providers could be criminalized and sent to jail for performing an abortion to save a woman’s health, providing an abortion to a woman carrying a fetus with little to no chance of survival, offering critical care in the event of a miscarriage, or even treating a rape or incest survivor who has not compiled — complied with medically unnecessary delays or reporting requirements.
 
The ACOG found that bills like Senator Graham’s have no basis in science, that doctors would become less skilled if such a ban was in effect, and it would interfere with patients’ ability to get timely and critical medical care.
 
Now, separately, Jen Klein, the Director of White House Gender Policy, released a memo discussing how, if passed and enacted, this bill would create a nationwide health crisis, threatening the health and lives of women in all 50 states.
 
I said it before and I’ll keep saying it again: This extreme national ban and plan to criminalize doctors is wildly out of step with the American people, and President Biden and Vice President Harris will continue to do everything in their power to protect women’s reproductive rights and expand access to healthcare.
 
Today, the White House hosted a Recovery Month Summit and announced over $1.5 billion in funding to beat the opioid crisis and support people in recovery across the United States.  This funding will go to lifesaving programs and policies like expanding access to medic- — to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder; to dispute [sic] — to distribute naloxone to prevent overdoses; and programs to prevent substance use in our communities.
 
President Biden recognizes the devastating impact the overdose epidemic has had on our nation, reaching large cities, small towns, Tribal lands, and every community in between.
 
That’s why, in his first State of the Union, he made beating the opioid crisis a key pillar of his Unity Agenda.  Our major pillars of work to combat — other major pillars of work to combat this crisis include the Treasury Department’s efforts to sanction traffickers and disrupt the global trade — drug trade — and expanded access to programs and treatments for people in need.
 
To support these and other efforts, President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget request calls for a historic investment of $42.5 billion for national drug control agencies.
 
Tonight, as you all know, we will be welcoming Sir Elton John.  The President and the First Lady, they look forward to hosting him at the White House for a spectacular performance on the South Lawn.
 
The President and the First Lady will celebrate the vast contributions Sir Elton has made across his lifetime as an artist and an advocate.  And they are particularly thrilled to welcome to the White House an audience of around 2,000 fans and compri- — comprised of teachers and nurses, frontline workers, mental health advocates, students, LGBTQ+ advocates, and so many others.
 
Tonight’s performance has been organized and — in collaboration with, and is paid for by, the A&E and History channels — network channels, and will air on television at a later date.
 
Now, this is a — I think I can speak for the entire press team.  This is a very sad day for the press team.  It is finally happening: We are losing today — but not really losing — but Chris is leaving us today.  Today is his last day at the White House as part of the press team.  And we are also sad, as I said, to see him go. 
 
But we are also thrilled that he is staying in the Biden family and will be starting as the Assistant to the Secretary of Public Affairs at the Department of Defense in the coming days.  As you know, that is a very big job that Chris is about to take on.
 
So we will — we will miss Chris’s good humor, his sharp political instincts, and his just easy- — easygoing demeanor.  He’s one of the most chillest, coolest cats that I know around town.
 
Chris has been a leader on our team.  We wouldn’t have made it through these — this past year or so without — without Chris by our side and helping to lead the team, as I mentioned, from our earliest days here in — in the White House.
 
And we know that all of you in this room will miss him as well.  You’ve worked very closely with him.  Chris has gaggled on Air Force One; spoken to all of you from this very podium, as you know — it has happened a couple of times for him — to have done that; and dealt with hundreds, if not thousands, of important stories incoming from all of you here at the White House.
 
Chris, we are so proud of you.  We will miss you dearly.  As — as I know — this is an inside joke — it is — we will see you later, pal. 
 
And so, until we see you again, we hope you have some time to do your very, very favorite thing that I know that you love to do, outside of hanging out with your wife, is play golf.  Chris loves to play golf.  I always ask him to tell me — to take me to play golf, and he still has not done that.
(Laughter.)
 
But anyway, to help send you off to your next adventure, I know you’re going to take some time off — you told me that you’re going to hit the links; I don’t know what the lingo is here.  But we wanted to make sure that we got you something.
 
(Ms. Jean-Pierre presents Mr. Meagher with a gift.)
 
MR. MEAGHER:  Thank you, Karine.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Thank you, thank you. 
 
All right, with that, it’s all yours, Zeke.  I know you’re waiting.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you for indulging us on that.
 
Q    If we could start with the Ukraine — the so-called “referenda” taking place in Russian-occupied areas there.  Is the administration considering any additional costs to be imposed on Russia or those who are involved in organizing those referenda — new sanctions or other sorts of responses?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things I do want to lean into as the votes are happening today — you know, clearly over the next five days.
 
We are prepared to impose additional swift and severe economic costs on Russia, along with our allies and partners, in response to these actions if they move forward with annexation.
 
As we said in today’s G7 Leaders’ Statement, the United States will never recognize this territory or — as anything other than part of Ukraine, because it belongs to the people of Ukraine.  We stand with our partners around the world in rejecting whatever fabricated outcomes Russia announces. 
 
As the President spoke about at the U.N., as you heard from him very clearly, very boldly, these referendums are a flagrant violation of international law and an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that underpin the international system and are the foundation of the United Nations Charter.
 
We will continue to stand firmly with the people of Ukraine and continue to provide them with historic amounts of security assistance to help them defend their territory, to help them defend their freedom.
 
Q    And then, on a different topic there as well: these dramatic scenes of Russian fighting-age males who are subject to those conscription orders leaving the country.  Would the President’s support providing political asylum to Russians who are fleeing their country to avoid serving in the armed forces in Ukraine?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have anything to preview for you, as it relates to your question, Zeke, about what we would
offer.
 
But, you know, we’ll say this: What we’re seeing — what we’re seeing in Russia, especially with the protests, and what we’re seeing with Russians leaving their country is that this is an unpopular war.  We have to remember this is an unpopular war that was started by the Kremlin — a brutal war that was started by the Kremlin, an unprovoked war against Ukraine. 
 
That is why you have heard from this President — he’s been very clear, especially during his U.N. — most recently during his U.N. address — that we will continue, with our allies and partners, to offer the assistance that Ukraine needs to fight against the aggression of Russia.
 
So, again, what you’re seeing is — is not — what Russia is doing, what Putin is doing — he’s not coming from a place of strength.  He is coming from a place of weakness.  And now the Russian people are being very loud and clear.  This is, again, an unpopular war.
 
Q    And just domestically: It’s been several days now; the power is still out in parts of Puerto Rico.  Does the President plan to visit?  Can you update us?  And does he have any plan to go there?
 
And then, separately, there’s another storm that appears to be bearing down for parts of Florida next week.  Will that affect the President’s travel plans for Tuesday?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, your last question first.  We are monitoring the forecast in close coordination with the National Hurricane Center and also with FEMA.  As always, FEMA has supplies staged at various distribution centers across the country to deploy as needed.  So, this is the case here as well. 
 
As you remember, the President was also briefed at the start of the hurricane season — some of your — some of your colleagues were there — on preparedness effort and what — how we were going to move forward in this hurricane season.  And we will continue to maintain a forward-leaning posture throughout the remainder of this hurricane season. 
 
As far as the President’s travel plans, I don’t have any changes to read out at this time.
 
Q    And Puerto Rico, as well?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just a little bit — so, yesterday, as you know, the President joined the New York Governor, Kathy Hochul, and New York Mayor Eric Adams to receive a briefing from FEMA Administrator Cris- — Criswell and Puerto Rico Governor, as well.
 
As you all know, FEMA — FEMA Administrator Criswell was on the ground earlier this week to assess emergency recovery and response efforts. 
 
Yesterday, the President announced the federal government is covering 100 percent of the cost of debris removal, emergency protective measures for the next month in this recovery.  The President also increased critical needs assistance from $500 to $700 to support individuals and families with immediate or critical needs as a result of being displaced from primary dwelling. 
 
As of today, there are more than 900 federal response workers on the ground in Puerto Rico supporting operations, planning, power restorations, debris removals, and urban search and rescue. 
 
And so, we will continue to monitor what’s on — on the ground and continue to help Puerto Rico — our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico as best as we can. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks.  First, a follow-up on the referendum in Ukraine.  If Russia does annex these parts of Ukraine, could it put the U.S. in a more dangerous situation, especially if Ukraine uses American weapons in those areas?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just to be very, very clear here — we spoke about — I spoke about this just now: We have sent a loud message — and our allies, as well — about this illegitimate vote that we’re seeing today across the next several days. 
 
We will never recognize this — if they go forward with the annexation, we will never recognize that.  That’s not just coming from us.  That is also coming from G7 leaders I mentioned; they put out a statement. 
 
And so, we will continue to be very — speak very forcefully about that.  We will be — continue to be very clear. 
 
We know that these referenda will be manipulated.  We have information that shows Russian officials setting targets for voter turnouts and approval rates for the referendums. 
 
For example, in some regions, they have reportedly already set the required figures for voter turnout and support for a session into Russia at over 75 percent. 
 
So Russia is rushing to conduct these sham, again, referenda, but these are not acts of confidence or strength.  They are complete opposite.  We will continue to speak loudly. 
 
Again, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals.  I’m about to answer your question.  I’m not getting into hypotheticals, but we are making sure that we are loud and clear with our G7 leaders.
 
Q    If — I understand how the United States is not going to view the outcome of, like you said, a sham election.  But if Russia views the outcome as now annexing more Russian territory, is there a risk of escalation?
 
The — their foreign minister said today they strongly urge the U.S. to avoid a situation capable of leading to direct military clashes with Russia. 
 
So if they start saying that now American weapons are being fired into what they are considering Russian territory, does that risk escalation?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So what — we have said this before and we’ll say it again: We do not seek conflict with Russia.  Of course, we are attentive to managing escalation in this conflict, as always, as we have been for the past six months or more of this war, and so — throughout this year.
 
But to reiterate, there is only one country that is responsible for this war, and that is Russia.  They are the ones who — who are causing this brutal war.  They started this conflict and could end this at any time. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  What is the White House’s take and the President’s take on World Bank President Malpass’s comments on climate change?  Does the President still have confidence in Mr. Malpass?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll take your — I guess — well, I guess I’ll take both your questions first. 
 
So, we disagree with the comments made by President Malpass.  We expect the World Bank to be a global leader of climate ambition and mobilization as well, of significant — of sigvican- — significantly more climate finance for developing countries, as is the business of the World Bank.
The Treasury Department, which oversees our engagement with international financial institutions, has and will continue to make that expectation clear to the World Bank leadership. 
 
Q    And with regard to the confidence that the President has or does not have?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, we disagree with the comments of the president.  I’ll leave it there. 
 
Q    Okay, I have one other —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.
 
Q    — question on today’s news.  The markets are falling — the stock markets are falling.  The dollar is strengthening significantly; the pound has dropped.  What is the White House’s take on that and the broader implications for the U.S. economy?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the stock market, as you’ve heard us say many times, is just one measure of the economy that — that shows how the economy is doing.  And so, we are watching — always watching these different indicators closely, including the stock market. 
 
It’s also important to look at what’s happening on Main Street.  This is something that we think is important, as you’ve heard us talk about, to also look at.
 
We have one of the strongest job markets on record, with 3.7 unemployment rate.  And we’ve created 10 million new jobs in the President’s 19 months in office.  More people are looking for work.  And we think those indicators are important as well. 
 
So because of the economic plan, the bus- — the businesses are investing in America at a record — at record rates, and we are making more in America.  And that is important to note, as well.
 
We always know, you know, we — there’s always more work to do.  But the President, with his economic plan — whether it’s the American Rescue Plan that got the economy started, which we see this historic economy; or the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is going to create millions of jobs and fix our infrastructure, fix our supply chain; or it’s the Inflation Reduction Act — all of these are pieces of the President’s economic plan that we’re going to continue to work through and is going to make sure we don’t leave anybody behind. 
 
But again, this is one of the strongest job markets that we have seen on record.  And — and so, what we are seeing — and I’ve said this before; you’ve heard this from Brian Deese — is a transition to a more steady and stable growth.  And that’s what we’re currently seeing and in the process of moving the economy into. 
 
Q    Karine, protests are still underway in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini in the hands of Iran’s morality police.  I know the Treasury Department yesterday issued those sanctions.  Are there other tools the U.S. feels they have at their disposal to try to respond to this?
 
And I was also hoping you could possibly speak to the President’s personal response to it as well. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, Mahsa Amini’s death after injuries, as you all know, sustained while in police custody after — for wearing an “improper” hijab is an appalling and egregious affront to human rights.  Our thoughts are with Mahsa’s family and loved ones. 
 
And as President Biden clearly stated at UNGA — he spoke to this: “We need…” — and this is quote — “We need…” — “We stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.”  End quote.
 
Women in Iran should have the right to wear what they want, free from violence or harassment.  Iran must end its use of violence against women for exercising their fundamental freedoms.
 
There must be accountability for Mahsa’s death.  Again, you mentioned the sanctions; that was announced by the Department of Treasury just yesterday.  And Treasury also designated seven senior Iranian security officials as well, including Iran’s Minister of Intelligence, for their roles in the suppression and killing of peaceful protesters since 2019. 
 
And so, we will continue to use all available tools at our disposal to make sure that we pursue accountability. 
 
Q    And on this storm that’s approaching Florida, I know that FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell today spoke with Governor DeSantis.  Does President Biden himself plan on speaking to the Governor?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any — I don’t have any calls to preview at this time. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Are you declining to say whether or not the President has confidence in David Malpass?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just stated very clearly where we stand on that.
 
Q    And has the President or any of his advisors spoken with anyone else —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a call to preview at this time. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks.  Another one on Iran.  Has the situation forced the administration to reevaluate its pursuit of a nuclear agreement?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we have been very clear that our number one goal is to make sure that — look, I’ll start here: We have concerns.  We do.  We have concerns with Iran.  But the JCPOA is the best way to — for us to address the nuclear problem.  And we have been very clear that our goal is to make sure that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. 
 
So as long as we believe pursuing JCPOA talks is in the U.S. national security interest, we will do so.  We will continue to use other tools to address other problems with Iran’s behavior.  But we believe this is the best path forward, to make sure that we go — we have these negotiations.
 
Q    And the UK Prime Minister, Liz Truss, is pursuing an economic program, including tax cuts for the wealthy, that’s causing some economic headwinds in that country.  And is the U.S. concerned about broader economic fallout from that plan?  And are you monitoring what Prime Minister Truss is trying to push through there?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I can’t speak to the plan.  I have not read it.  I would need to speak to our team. 
 
You know, I’m not going to really, at this time, speak to another country’s plan on what they — what they plan or not plan to do on their taxing the wealthy.  So I’m not — I’m just not going to respond to it at this time. 
 
Go ahead, Steve. 
 
Q    Thanks.  A number of outlets matched the Washington Post report this morning that in addition to the public warnings to Moscow, there have been private communications.  What more can you tell us about the communications to Russia warning against the use of nuclear weapons? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m not going to speak to any private or — discussions at this time.  We’ve been very clear.  The President was loud and clear during his UNGA address about what we’re seeing.  We will not — it — the votes that we’re seeing — this sham referendum is illegitimate.  We’ve been very clear.  I’m not, again, going to comment on private communications. 
 
Again, you’ve heard the President.  He not only said it at UNGA, he said it during his “60 Minutes” interview, in his New York Times op-ed on Ukraine a few months ago.  And so we’ve been very clear.  And we have warned — we have actually warned about the sham referendum for many, many months.  And so now we see the playbook of Putin, what he’s doing right now.
 
It is not — he is not moving forward with any strength here.  This is weakness that we’re seeing from him.  He has — he has — he is losing ground in the battlefield.  And this is a playbook of his that is not surprising.  But we’ve been very clear about what — if he moves forward with annexation, we will not recognize it and we will continue to condemn those actions.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Can you share a little bit about what the U.S. assessment is of how serious Vladimir Putin is about his threat to use nuclear weapons?  He has threatened it before but, of course, it was at the beginning of the war, and the dynamics are very different now.  So if you could just share a little bit about what your thinking is of how serious that threat is. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we — we obviously take these threats very seriously, but we have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture at this time. 
 
Look, you know, the consequences of a nuclear use by Russia — the President was very clear about this, especially during his “60 Minutes” interview — would be disastrous for the world and Russia would be a pariah on the world stage. 
 
But again, we are not seeing any reason to adjust our — our own posture, but we take this threat very seriously.
 
Let me move around.  Go ahead, Peter. 
 
Q    Karine, on the Iranian President, who was here in the U.S. just recently.  Why did the Biden administration grant a visa waiver for President Raisi to come to the United States, given the crackdown that we’re witnessing take place in his own country?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because he — because he attended the U.N. — you mean — the UNGA. 
 
Q    He was here as part of the United Nations.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — no, I know.  I’m just talk- — you’re talking about —
 
Q    Yeah.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — UNGA specifically? 
 
Look, you know, it is — UNGA is an opportunity for, as we know, heads of states, world — global world leaders to come together and talk through their agreements, disagreements, how they’re going to move forward.  And that’s what you saw.  And everyone had an opportunity, as you know, to speak to the hall, but also to speak to the global — it was a global stage.  And — and we believe everyone has that right to do that as — as a part of the U.N. Charter. 
 
I’m not going to speak any — any specifically on his — on his visa.
 
Q    But for clarity, though, there was no engagement between the United States and Iran while he was here?  While it comes with the ability to do that, we did not take up that opportunity to engage with him directly, correct?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share on that front.  We have been very — we have been very clear and forthcoming on who he engaged with — who the President engaged with while he was in New York this past week.
 
Q    You were asked something to this effect a little bit earlier, but we’ve heard from the State Department that the U.S. is doing what it can to expand Internet access for those Iranians right now to still have access to the outside world.  Is there anything beyond that the United States is doing presently to help those protesters and others in that country?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have any more to share on what else we’ve been doing, but happy to clearly update folks if we have more on that piece.
 
Okay, go ahead. 
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Do we have any updates on the process to get a permanent U.S. ambassador in Moscow?  Obviously, John Sullivan, who was there, had to come back.  Do you know where you are in that process?  Have you submitted a name to the Russians? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have anything to — we don’t have anything to update you on that piece. 
 
Q    Is there — is that hindering your ability to effectively do foreign policy, the fact that you don’t have a Senate-confirmed ambassador there right now? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, not at all.  We have been very effectively —
 
Q    You announced your new ambassador. 
 
Q    You named an ambassador (inaudible).
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I’m sorry.  I might have misunderstood the question.  What was the question? 
 
Q    I’m here to help.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.) I appreciate that.  So what was the question? 
 
Q    I’m asking where you are in the — where you are in that process. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.
 
Q    Because there’s a — you know, you have to submit credentials, and they have to come back.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Got it.
 
Q    And it’s a bureaucratic process to get that approved.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Got it.  So —
 
Q    I was wondering if you had timing updates or where you were on that. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, yeah, she’s asking me where we are in the process.  So we have announced someone.  I don’t have anything — an update on the process. 
 
Q    Okay.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Do you have another question? 
 
Q    I — it’s been answered a little bit, but I was going to ask — I think you’ve addressed this.  But — so you’re taking the timing of these referendums in Ukraine, being held by Russia, as a sign of insecurity, not confidence, right?  You’re — you’re saying that this is not Putin thinking he can permanently hold these areas, and that’s why he’s having these referendums.  You’re interpreting it as this timing is the opposite: He’s feeling insecure, and that’s why they’re holding them now?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, we’ve been very clear on that.  And we actually have been saying for months that this is an action that Putin would take; this is part of his playbook, doing these sham referendums, these illegitimate voting process.
 
So we have been very clear on that, that he’s — he would take this action.  But again, you — we saw the G7 statement earlier today.  You heard from the President at UNGA.  He’s been very clear as well: These are sham referendums.  We will not recognize any — if — if they move forward in this fashion, we would not recognize any annexation of Ukraine.  Ukraine belongs to the people of Ukraine, plain and simple.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  So, the Federal Reserve is saying that the economy will significantly slow down to growing just 0.2 percent for the entirety of this year and then 1.2 percent for next year.  Is this the stable growth the President is moving us towards? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re talking about what — what he said yesterday?  The —
 
Q    Yeah.  It was the projections the Federal Reserve came out.  They projected the economy would grow at just 0.2 percent this year and 1.2 percent next year, which is pretty slow growth.  And I’m just curious: Is this the stable growth that you’re talking about?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I mean, I talked about this a little bit already, how we’re coming off of last year’s historic economic growth.  A lot of that is because of the work of this President and Democrats in Congress passing the American Rescue Plan, which put us in a position where we saw the most stable growth — strongest growth that we have seen in modern — in modern history. 
 
So it’s no surprise that the economy at this point is going to slow down, is going to cool off just a bit as the Federal Reserve takes action to bring down inflation. 
 
So the Fed’s projection, as you mentioned, of growth over this calendar year implies growth between 1 and 2 percent in the next two quarters.
 
So our goal is to bring down inflation.  That’s what we’ve been doing for the past several months: making sure that we’re doing everything that we can to give the American public a little bit more breathing room without sacrificing all of the historic gains that we made this past year and life-changing economics gains this country has made over the last 19 months — this past year, year and a half. 
 
So, given the encouraging initial signs that we have seen on inflation and the continued strength of growth in the job market — so we believe in — the transition remains possible.  We believe that we will get to a strong and stable growth.  We believe that we’ll — we will see that cooling that you hear economists talking about.
 
Q    Now, on inflation, one more if I could.  Americans are making tough choices related to inflation.  And last week, they saw the President do the celebration during the Inflation Reduction Act, when core inflation rose for the first time in five months on that day.
 
This week there’s another celebration 48 hours after the Fed Chairman said there’ll be more economic pain.  Is that optics of those two celebrations insensitive to what Americans are going through? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the President has always in — when he talks about the economy, has made clear to understand what the American families are going through, what the American people are going through.  He understands that the economy and inflation in particular, high cost, is — is giving some pain, to your point, to Americans. 
 
That is why we passed — that is why Democrats in Congress passed Inflation Reduction Act.  By the way, no Republicans supported that.  And as you know — you’ve heard me say it many times; you’ve heard the President say it many times — it is going to lower cost when it comes to prescription drugs.  It’s going to lower healthcare costs and energy costs.  And it is one of the most — the most historic investment to fight climate change.
 
As we are talking about extreme weather, I’ve gotten multiple questions on Puerto Rico and what the people — people of Puerto Rico, our brothers and sisters, are going through; what may happen in this hurricane season.  A lot of that is — is going to be helped by the work that this President has done — Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; again, the Inflation Reduction Act.
 
So, we are doing the work.  We’re going to continue to do that.  We’re going to continue to work.  We’ve seen gas prices go down for 14 weeks straight.  And that, again, is because of the work that this President is doing.  So, yes, we understand what the American people are going through.  But our job — the President’s job is to do everything that he can in his power to give Americans a little bit more breathing room.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thank you, Karine.  Can you tell us a little bit about Tuesday’s trip to Florida?  Is the President going to be going after DeSantis a bit?  Is he one of the MAGA — or not really, in a way — but you see what I mean.  Is he part of the MAGA or the alternative MAGA scene that the President is going after? 
 
And also, could you — could you just come back to the President’s reelection decision, because —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You like asking me that question, Sebastian. 
 
Q    No, no — you were asked this like a few months ago because everyone was going crazy over, “Is he going to — is he going…”  And you said, “Yes, he is.”  And that was meant to stop the whole thing, but —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I said that — look, I’m — I’m —
 
Q    Five days ago, he said it’s way too early.  So which —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Whoa, whoa, wait.  Hold on.  I’m going to answer your question.
 
Q    Okay.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m at the podium, right?  There’s a Hatch Act.  We have to — I have to be very mindful when talking about 2022 and even 2024, which is worlds away, as you all know.  You cover this.  This media cycle changes every second. 
 
So, look, the President was clear even during that “60 Minutes” interview.  And I have been clear.  He has been clear multiple times that he intends to run.  He said that.  He said that in that same interview that he intends to run. 
 
I have to be careful as I’m standing in front of you.  I don’t want to get more into that. 
 
But the President’s goal right now, as we look at today, as we look at the next coming days, is to make sure that we — that we continue to deliver for the American people.  That is why we talk about the Inflation Reduction Act.  That is why we talk about CHIPS Act.  That is why we talk about Bipartisan Infrastructure legislation. 
 
And not just him.  You hear it from the Vice President.  You hear it from his Cabinet Secretaries.  It is so important to make sure that the American public understands what we have done here these past 19 months, and that’s going to be our focus.
 
As it relates to Florida and Governor DeSantis, look, I don’t have anything to preview at this time of what the trip will look like.  We will share more as we get closer to the day.
 
Look, we have talked about this as well.  You know, when it comes to extremism, when it comes to behaviors that is inhumane and cruel — that is what we’re seeing from Governor DeSantis.  That is what we’re seeing in — specifically to how he is using people who are leaving communism, people who are freeing — trying to free, get away from political persecution — talking about Venezuela, Nicara- — Nicaragua, Cuba.  They are fleeing those countries.  And he is using families, children, and women as a political ploy, as a political stunt.  We will continue to call that out. 
 
But as far as what that day will look like, we’ll share more as we get closer. 
 
Go ahead, Karen.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Back to Puerto Rico.  When the President said yesterday that the federal government would cover 100 percent of the cost for the next month of the efforts down there, do you have an estimate of what that cost is going
to be?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, that’s a good question.  We don’t have an estimate at this time.  But the President is committed, as you know.  You heard him from speaking — from New York yesterday.  He is committed to doing everything that he can for Puerto Rico.  He has spoken to the governor several times.  Our team has been in touch with the governor and local officials throughout this time. 
 
And so, he’s committed to doing everything that he can, and this is how he sees his role.  He’s done this multiple times when we’ve seen this extreme type of weather, these disasters hit communities.  And as President, he’s going to continue to be a loud voice in that and use the resources of the federal government to make sure that we — we help the people of Puerto Rico at this time.
 
Q    And a follow-up on Iran and the Internet.  Has the administration heard from any American tech companies that will move forward with offering Internet services in Iran?  And is there any way to estimate how much of an impact that will actually have on the Iranian people?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So let me go back and just say, look, we are aware of the — what the Iranian authorities are doing in blocking Instagram and also WhatsApp, as well as slowing down or stopping access to the Internet in general, as you all are asking.
 
If accurate, this is shameful and — but also not an unsurprising step in the wrong direction by Iran’s government to prevent the world from watching the Iran government crack down on peaceful protesters.  That is what is happening here.
 
We continue to work with private sector and Department of Treasury to identify additional measures that we will support and facilitate the free flow of information to the Iranian people.
 
As you — as I just mentioned earlier, the Department of Treasury took action just yesterday, and we will use what is available to us to make sure that we — there is accountability.
 
I’m going to go back a little bit because I haven’t been. Go ahead.  And then I’ll come back up. 
 
Q    Thank you.  Two quick ones.  First of all, on this weather, has there been any — have we been in contact — has the U.S. been in contact at all with our Canadian neighbors about the — what I believe will technically not be a hurricane, but the major storm is supposed to hit the Atlantic provinces, Canadian Maritimes in the coming hours?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Clearly, that’s something that we are monitoring from here.  We would have to check in with our friends at NSC, our colleagues to see if we’ve been in close touch with Canadian officials.  But that is something that FEMA is continuously monitoring as well.  And when we have any updates on that, we’re happy to share.
 
Q    And the second thing is we’re — we’re a week away from the end of the government’s fiscal year.  And are there — is there any reason why anyone should be concerned that there might be a lapse in funding?  Or is the President and the White House confident that whatever is going back and forth with Senator Manchin’s permitting bill and the rest of the CR negotiations, that that will all be worked out by next Friday?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we have — you know, we believe — and I’ve said this before, there’s still time for lawmakers on the — on the Hill to enact a short-term funding bill by the — by the Friday deadline.  We remain confident that Congress will get to — get this done so we can continue to deliver vital services, to your — to your point of your question, to the American people.  So, we encourage for that to happen. 
 
We have continued, I’ve mentioned this before, to stay in close touch with Congress to — in a bipartisan way.  But we believe we have been here before.  We were here just last year during this time, and we think that there’s still time to get something done.  And we’ll call on them to act.
 
Q    I just want to follow up again on the World Bank president.  You said that you disagree with the comments that he’s made.  But in terms of having confidence in him or supporting him, you know, there are reports suggesting that some in the administration have tried to oust him.  So, you know, given that contest [sic] — context, does the White House still support him or have confidence in him?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, removing him requires a majority of shareholders, so that’s something to keep in mind.  The U.S. believes the World Bank must be a full partner in delivering on the aggressive global climate agenda, poverty reduction, and sustainability development.
 
Again, Treasury will hold Malpass accountable to this position and support the many staff working to fight climate change at the World Bank. 
 
But again, it would — removal would require a majority of stakeholders here.  So, it is — it is a partnership, is how we see this.
 
Go ahead, Peter.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Following up on your topper, does President Biden favor any limits on abortion?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve been very, very clear here.  Since you’re talking about my topper, I was talking specifically about Senator Lindsey Graham.
 
Q    And your position on his plan is clear: 15 weeks is unacceptable.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I was — I was speaking to — directly to what Republicans are trying to do.
 
Q    So Republicans —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  They are calling — they are calling for a national ban, which takes us backwards. 
 
Q    A limit at 15 weeks, right?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Which will — which will — it’s a national ban which will take us backwards and will put at risk the health of women. 
 
And here’s the thing about this, Peter, it’s not just national ban on abortion.  We’re talking about privacy.  We’re talking about contraception.  We’re talking about marriage.  That is what extreme Republican officials are trying to do.  That’s what we’re speaking to. 
 
I’m not going to get into specifics here.  I’m just going to lay out what — what they have said that they’re going to
do.
 
Q    Why not get into specifics?  The Republicans are saying, “We don’t want abortion after 15 weeks.”  Why can’t you say how many weeks the President thinks the limit should be?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So — so, as you know — as you know, Kevin McCarthy put out the GO- — GOP agenda.
 
Q    I am not asking about Kevin McCarthy.  I’m asking about Joe Biden and his —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I am answering — I am answering — Peter —
 
Q    — position on abortion.  How many weeks?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Peter, I’m answering your question.  What Republicans are trying to do is take us backwards.  They’re trying to take away the rights and freedoms of Americans.  That’s what we’re calling out and that’s what we’re going to continue to call out.

House Republicans oppose a pharmacy bill that would deny women essential medications.  As of September, 166 House Republicans have signed on to a heartbeat bill that would decide abortion at the federal lev- — level, even though 28 of those members have since said decisions on abortion should be left to the state. 
 
And this week, a Michigan GOP official said he wa- — he — he wants to ban contraception.

So we should really listen to what Republicans are trying to tell us.  And that’s what we are speaking out against.  And that’s what we’re going to talk about — about the national ban that Republicans are continuing — continuing to push when majority of Americans do not want that.

Q    We are all covering the Republican —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    — plan.  I’m just —

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

Q    Why can’t you say how many weeks —

Q    Thanks, Karine.

Q    — for Biden?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    But — no.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.  Go ahead. 

Q    Karine, why can’t you say?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I answered.  I answered your question.

Q    You did not answer my question —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Courtney.

Q    — Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I did.

Q    Why can’t you say —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Courtney.

Q    — how many weeks?

Q    I wanted to ask you — the President announced that he was elevating Jennifer Klein to a more senior role.  What does that do for her resources, for her portfolio?  What’s the purpose of doing that, especially when you’re dealing with so many gender issues that you’ve been talking about?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, Jen Klein — who, as you know, is a colleague of mine, and I’ve worked — I’ve worked closely with her, as well as our team here — has been leading on the Gender Policy Council since the beginning, since day one.  And she has had all the resources available to her.

She has worked diligently on — on delivering the agenda of this President.  It is a — it is a — as you know, a historic office that deals with — with such an important issue as we talk about gender — gender rights, as we talk about equality. 

So I wouldn’t say there are — there’s going to be any differences, really.  I mean, it is an — she is — she is an — really, an assistant to the President, as the role — as her new title lays out.  She runs an office here.  And again, she has had all the resources that have been provided to her.

She works closely with multiple agencies across — across the federal government to make sure that we live up to what the goal of the gender policy is.

And so, again, she is — we’re very happy for her.  This is well deserved for — for Jen.  And she — we are lucky to have her in that role.

Q    Can you also provide an update — I know the Justice Department had a task force that some of the White House folks were participating on responding to the Dobbs decision, how you were going to proceed with litigation or whatever it is you wanted to move forward.  Can you provide an update on that group’s work?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, we can — we can go back to the G- — GPC and our other partners to get an update for you on where we are.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Go ahead.

Q    Just another follow-up on the World Bank.  If a majority of the stakeholders wanted to oust President Malpass, would the United States support that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.  I’ve said already that we condemn the words of the president.  And — but, again, was just laying out what the process would be.  But I’m not going to get ahead of — of what that process is potentially going to look like if there is a majority. 

Again, this is a partnership.  This is not — this is not something that we will just do on our own.

Q    And then, in New York this week, did any of the President’s discussions with other world leaders touch on the proposed oil price cap for Russia?  And can you give us any updates on what was discussed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, that’s a good question.  We don’t have anything to read out for you on that particular issue.  It is something that the President has led on, as you know.  It came up when he was in Europe very recently. 
 
And it is — it is — you know, it is an issue that we feel that is important in dealing with really giving, you know, another, kind of, blow to Russia.  But I don’t have anything to read out for you at this time on any further conversations and where we are in that — in that space.

Go ahead.

Q    There’s videos out there of drunken men in Russia brawling and resisting going to the front.  Do you — in light of the conscrip- — this conscription order.  So do you assess that Putin is going to have trouble producing 300,000 members of the armed forces, or do you think he’s going for far more than that?  And is he capable of doing it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I can’t speak to what he’s capable of doing or not doing, but I can speak to what these acts that — these announcements and his speech, laying out what he wants to do — right? — whether it’s 300,000 more personnel.

Look, again, this is not an act of strength.  This is not coming from a place of confidence.  It’s really quite the opposite.  What we’re seeing from Putin is weakness.

He has — he’s been losing on the battlefield.  He is not — he has not made any gain, as we have known, this past couple of weeks.  They have not been able to achieve any of their goals.  And — and they are losing their positions, again, on the battlefield.

So what we are seeing is Russia that is scraping for personnel to throw into this fight.  And we are seeing thousands of Russians protest against this mobilization, against this brutal war and unjust war that Russia forced — that Russian forces are carrying out in Ukraine and — on President Putin’s, you know, whim, on his orders.

So, again, he — this is — you know, this is not a strength or confidence here that we’re seeing.  This is coming from a place of weakness.

It is — you know, it is — we’ll — we will — it is up to Putin to see what he’s capable of doing.  But we’re seeing from the protests, right?  We’re seeing very clearly that people are protesting in the street because this war is incredibly unpopular.  This war, again, that Putin has started, that Putin put onto the people of Ukraine.

Q    There’s that report out of the U.N. today about potential alleged war crimes in Russia, including sex crimes of very young and very old Ukrainian people.  In light of what the President has said calling Putin a war criminal in the past, what is he doing now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we are engaging the Ukrainians to learn more about what’s happening on the ground.  We have been clear that war crimes Russian forces have committed need to be investigated and that Russia needs to be held accountable.

So the recent discovery of mass graves in Izyum is horrifying, as are the atrocities Russia has committed in Bucha and many other places throughout Ukraine.  We’ve been very clear about that.

We have been working closely with Ukraine on this issue and welcome Ukrainians’ perspective on this process, how we move forward. 
 
We are also supporting a range of international and national efforts underway to document war crimes and atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, including through International Criminal Court and investigation through the Human — U.N. Human Rights Council, the OSCE Moscow Mechanism, and the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office.
 
We are helping document, preserve, and analyze evidence of war crimes and atrocity through our Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group for Ukraine, the State Department’s Conflict Observatory, and the Department of Justice War Crimes Accountability Team. 
 
It is past time for this war to end, and it is up to Mr. Putin to end this war.  This war was started by the Kremlin.  He can end this war today if he chooses to.  He can end the brutality that we’re seeing in Ukraine if he chooses to.  And it is up to him.  He can end this today. 
 
I’m trying to see who I have not called on.  Oh, go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.
 
Q    Thank you, Karine.  Two Americans who were captured while fighting Russia in Ukraine were released this week.  They arrived back on U.S. soil today.  What involvement did the U.S. have in that prisoner exchange?  Is there anything else that you can tell us about that?  And has the President spoken yet to either the men or their families?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything to read out on any conversation that — that the President has had specifically with these two — two Americans.
 
The United States welcomes the negotiated prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia, which includes the two U.S. citizens, as you just mentioned, captured while serving in Ukraine’s military.  We are appreciative of Ukraine including all prisoners of war, regardless of nationality, in its negotiations.  And we look forward to these U.S. citizens being reunited with their families. 
 
We also thank the Crown Prince and the government of Saudi Arabia and the Turkish government for facilitating the exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia.  We once again reiterate the State Department’s travel advisory warning U.S. citizens not to travel to Ukraine, and that those who do participate in fighting there — in the fighting there, face a significant risk, and the United States cannot guarantee their safety.  We’ve been very clear about this from the very early days of this war.
 
We continue to encourage Americans to devote their energies toward the many other opportunities that exist to help the country of Ukraine and also the people of Ukraine.
 
Q    On another topic really quick.  The President, over the summer, was considering declaring a public health emergency over abortion rights.  He was also at one point thinking about taking executive action when it comes to DREAMers.  And he was also considering declaring a national emergency over climate.  Can you provide us with a status update on potential executive actions relating to those items?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We don’t have any updates on those particular items, and when we do, we will be happy to share them.
 
Go ahead. 
 
Q    Karine, what’s the President Biden message to the people of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua that are now on their way to the U.S. border or thinking of coming to the U.S. border?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  And we have said this before; Secretary Mayorkas has been very clear on this as well: It is a dangerous journey.  We understand the political persecution.  We understand what — what the people of Ukraine — I’m sorry — not Ukraine — I was just talking about Ukraine — what the people of Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba are going through.  But, again, these are very, very dangerous — this is a very dangerous journey. 
 
We — you know, we recommend that they don’t put their lives at risk.  But, again, you know, what we’re seeing — how they are being used as political pawns — is something that we’re going to continue to call on.  It is inhumane.  It is unacceptable how folks who are fleeing, again, political persecution, who are fleeing communism are being treated. 
 
And that is something that you’ll continue to hear President Biden condemn, you’ll continue to hear us condemn.  What Republican governors are doing is unacceptable.  It is shameful.  And not only that — it is causing chaos and confusion. 
 
And that is not how we fix the system.  If we want to fix the system, the President put forth, on his first day in the White House, a legislative solution, a comprehensive immigration reform to deal with these very issues. 
 
In the meantime, we’re going to continue to work with our partners and our allies in the region in the Western Hemisphere, because this is indeed a new type of migration that we’re seeing.  We’re seeing a jump from those three countries — about 121 percent in just a year.  And that is a different scenario that we’re dealing with.  So, we’re going to — that is causing — that is causing havoc across the Western Hemisphere.
 
Q    I have a follow-up.  President Biden said last week that it’s not rational to send these people from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua back.  Does that mean that President Biden is in some way — or the White House — in some way encouraging them to come to the U.S.?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What the President is saying is that these folks — these mothers, these children, these families — are leaving the country because of communism.  They’re leaving the country because of political persecution. 
 
And he was saying that they should not be used as a political pawn by Governor DeSantis or any Republican governor.  That’s what he was speaking to.  He was calling out the inhumane nature of the way that they were being used because of a politi- — for a political headline, because of someone’s political future. 
 
And so, he’s going to continue to call that out.  It is, again — I’ll say this again: It is inhumane.  You hear the President talk about this many times throughout his career, not just as President: It is important to treat people with dignity.  It is important to make sure that — you know, that — again, that folks who are fleeing communism are not treated this way.  And so we’ll continue to call that out. 
 
Thanks, everybody.
 
3:44 P.M. EDT