Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, December 6, 2021
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:15 P.M. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Monday.
Okay. We will also keep you guys updated on when the pool needs to gather, as well, as we see if we’re on time or not.
So, good afternoon. As you all know, later today, the President will be delivering remarks on how his Build Back Better Act will lower prescription drug prices for millions of Americans.
Ahead of these remarks, the President is currently meeting with some of the one in four Americans who take prescription drugs and struggle to afford them, and he’ll talk about that in his remarks today. He will discuss their conversation and their — the plights of the people he’s meeting with.
The three people he is meeting with struggle to pay for insulin, even rationing doses. These stories are all too common. Nearly 30 percent of Americans who take prescription drugs have skipped a dose.
The President’s Build Back Better Act will provide relief to Americans struggling to pay for their prescription drugs, and for good reason.
Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, often two to three times as much as citizens of other — from other developed countries. That includes many medicines that were invented long ago and cost very little to make, such as insulin, which was invented a century ago and costs only a few dollars to make but whose costs have skyrocketed in recent years, often to over $1,000.
The President’s Build Back Better Act will cap the cost of insulin to $35 a month; limit seniors’ prescription drug expenses to $2,000 a year; empower Medicare to negotiate down prices for some of the most expensive drugs; penalize drug companies that raise the cost of medicines more than inflation; lower costs for seniors by ensuring they never make more — pay more than $2,000 a year for drugs under Medicare Part D; and expand healthcare coverage to millions more Americans.
He also isn’t waiting to take action. He’s already acted to bring down the cost of prescription drugs with an executive order that increases competition which will lower prescription drug costs, directed the FDA to get less expensive generic drugs to consumers faster, and ordered the FDA to work with states and Tribes to import drugs safely from Canada. This is expected to save Coloradans, for example, 60 percent of their drug expenses.
So, you’ll hear the President talk more about that later this afternoon.
Also, I just wanted to provide a quick update on our booster program.
To date, the United States has administered more than 47 million boosters. Just in the last week, we’ve seen strong demand for boosters, with close to 7 million Americans getting their booster in the past week.
This is critical to ensuring Americans have the best protection against COVID-19 as we head into the winter. And as part of our comprehensive push on boosters, this week, CMS will issue email booster reminders to the more than 14 million people that receive Medicare emails.
It will also launch booster reminders at the beginning of calls to its 1-800 line, which receives more than 2 million calls per month.
Aamer, why don’t you kick us off?
Q Thank you. First, I just — on the Olympics and the diplomatic boycott: Several reports that the President has decided to move forward with the move. Is that correct that he’s come to this decision?
MS. PSAKI: The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.
The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.
U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these Games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang. And we simply can’t do that.
As the President has told President Xi, standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans. We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights. And we feel strongly in our position, and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond.
Q The Chinese Foreign Ministry has already suggested that there’ll be countermeasures — “firm countermeasures” is, I believe, the term that they used. Have they indicated to the administration yet what sort of action that they might take for this move?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything to read out in terms of their intentions or what they would convey from officials from the PRC. But our view is that’s not the right way to view or frame our relationship.
Our view is that cooperation on transnational issues is not a favor to us. It is not a transaction. The PRC should be taking action on issues, aware of where the global community — to meet the needs of the global community. And that’s what they should do in order to be a part of leadership in the global community.
So I don’t have anything to read out on their front; they can certainly speak for themselves.
Q And can you walk us through a little bit of the logistics of tomorrow’s video meeting with President Putin — just everything from who will be in the room on the U.S. side, how much time has been blocked out for meeting, and how much do you expect to be focused on Ukraine versus Iran, cybersecurity, some of the other issues of tension or mutual interest in the relationship?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I’m certain we will put out a list of the delegation who will be attending. I can see if that’s something that we can provide to all of you later this afternoon. And I can also check on the logistics of how much time is blocked out for the meeting.
In terms of the focus of the meeting, as was announced when we announced it this weekend, it will — it is an opportunity for the President to underscore, of course, U.S. concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine, and reaffirm the United States support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
It’s also an opportunity to discuss a range of topics in the U.S. and Russia relationship, including strategic stability, cyber, and regional issues.
But you can certainly expect that the — our concerns about the military activities on the border will be a prominent part of the discussion.
Q Thanks, Jen. Should Americans be prepared for the likelihood to see American forces on the ground in the region in the event that Russia does invade?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s conversations with our tran- — his transatlantic partners, which is going to happen later this afternoon. And we’ll provide you a list of who will be participating in that call as soon as those scheduling details are finalized.
But I would say that our objective here, Cecilia, is conveying diplomatically that this is the moment for Russia to pull back their military buildup at the border, that diplomacy is the right path forward here, but that we are going to continue to coordinate closely with our partners — our transatlantic partners — on a range of economic sanctions and steps that could be taken should President Putin decide to move forward.
Q And how would the White House characterize relations with Russia heading into this call right now?
MS. PSAKI: I think our objective from the beginning of the President’s time in office has not been to escalate the relationship but has been to move to a more stable footing in the relationship. But certainly, that means that we can raise concerns where we have them, specifically about areas like the military buildup we’ve seen on the border in Ukraine.
We — many of us lived through a similar playbook back in 2014. And the President is not going to hold back in conveying his concern and also conveying our conversations and our preparations should they be warranted.
We don’t know that President Putin has made a decision. We don’t know that yet. But that’s why this is an opportunity to have a conversation.
But there’s also an opportunity in this call to have a conversation about a range of topics where there can be mutual interest, whether it’s Iran’s capab- — nuclear capabilities as a member of the P5+1 talks and what that looks like moving forward, and other strategic stability issues where we have worked together in the past.
Q And just very quickly on China, if I may: Is a diplomatic boycott enough, given the human rights abuses that you’re concerned about?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say: Everybody can call it whatever they want to call it. I would just remind you that, often, when you use “diplomatic boycott” — that phrase — that brings people back to 1980, and we are not. The athletes will be participating. We will be rooting for the athletes from home. I am an Olympics-obsessed person, so I’m looking forward to doing that. But I think this is just an indication that it cannot be business as usual, that not sending a diplomatic delegation sends that message.
That does not mean — I think this was your question, just to come back to it — that we are — that is the end of the concerns we will raise about human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
We’ve already taken a number of steps. We’ve been a leader in the world in leading actions through the G7. We’re obviously also working with Congress. But this is just sending a message that, given these human rights abuses, we cannot proceed with business as usual.
Q Are you trying to get other allies to join the United States in this diplomatic boycott?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Steve, we have informed them of our decision, and obviously we will leave it to them to make their own decisions.
Q And why not pull American athletes from the Olympics?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that we felt it was — it was the right step to penalize athletes who have been training, preparing for this moment. And we felt that we could send a clear message by not sending an official U.S. delegation.
Q And on the Putin call, how specific will the President be with Putin on what the consequences will be if there’s an invasion?
MS. PSAKI: I think the President will be clear, as we have conveyed publicly, that we have been preparing a range of economic sanctions — or economic options that could have a detrimental impact on the Russian economy.
In terms of what level of detail, I will leave the President the space to do that himself.
Q Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q On those potential sanctions, obviously European partners have different equities here, particularly on the energy side of things. Will these all be done in concert with transatlantic allies, or is there a possibility that the U.S. would operate some on a unilateral basis?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a great question, Phil, and I think the President is going to have this conversation with a number of key partners this afternoon. Obviously, we — it’s important to us to move in coordination and in lockstep with our transatlantic partners and allies, but I don’t want to rule anything in or out before those conversations are had.
Q And on the domestic front, Senator Schumer sent a letter to his colleagues this morning, making clear that his deadline of Christmas to finish Build Back Better still stands at this point in time. It seems like there’s still a lot of work to do. Is that a deadline you guys subscribe to, would like to see? Or can you see it going further than that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you noted in his “Dear Colleague” letter — a very Washington term — it said — Leader Schumer made clear today that he’s moving full speed ahead and that there — he outlined in very specific, wonky Hill detail — that I’m sure you, of all people, appreciate, Phil — all of the work happening behind the scenes.
Obviously, we’re engaged in that, but we certainly support Leader Schumer’s effort and push to move this forward and get it done in the coming weeks.
Q I guess what I’m asking is: Is Christmas “drop dead,” or can this be something that moves past Christmas, if the legislative realities make that the case?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why you’re asking. We have many conversations and briefings between now and Christmas. So, we’re just encouraged by Leader Schumer’s effort to move this forward, all of the work happening behind the scenes among staffers, among the members to move this forward and get it done.
Go ahead, Ashley.
Q Thank you. Jen, on the Democracy Summit, can you explain why countries such as Hungary, which is an EU member, and Turkey, which is a NATO member, are not invited, while other countries like the Philippines and Pakistan, which have some especially egregious record on human rights, are included?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, the Democracy Summit that will happen later this week is an opportunity to bring together U.S. officials, civil society leaders, and foreign leaders who represent a diverse array of experiences to talk about strengthening democracy, defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.
Inclusion or an invitation is not a stamp of approval on their approach to democracy, nor is exclusion a stamp of the opposite of that — of disapproval. So, it’s just meant to have a broad scope of leaders, a broad scope of private sector and civil society officials represented.
Q Just to follow up on that briefly, there is sort of — of the roughly 110 countries you’ve invited, there’s a group of about a dozen or so that are a little, to use a non-wonky term, “cusp-y,” right? They feel like they can kind of go either way. Can you just give a little thinking on how those decisions were made when there was a debate over a country?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I mean, I would think — say, broadly speaking, that this is an opportunity, again, not to celebrate everything we’ve done on democracy, either for the United States or all these countries, and call it a day; it’s an opportunity to continue to strive to do better.
The President feels that, you know, democracy is always a work in progress. You’re always trying to make yourself better, to lead better, to push other countries to be better. And this is an opportunity to do exactly that.
So, I understand — I understand, of course, the interest in the invite list, but it’s not meant to be, again, a stamp of approval or disapproval; it’s just meant to have a diverse range of voices and faces and representatives at the discussion.
Q Thank you, Jen. You mentioned that Biden was obviously deeply involved with the Ukraine in 2014.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q And I’m wondering if you could talk about what his takeaways are from that experience, because a lot of the things that he’s saying this time — supporting NATO Allies on the eastern flank, sanctions — those sound like the same things that you guys tried to do in 2014, and it didn’t stop Russia from taking Crimea. So, what’s — why does he think this will be different?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, first, our objective at this point, Mara, is of course to prevent them from moving forward and to convey on the front end that we have been working in lockstep and in coordination with Congress, with countries, our NATO partners, with transatlantic partners to prepare a range of steps that could be detrimental to their economy.
I would say that there are some — certainly lessons learned or things that we’ve watched and seen that we certainly saw back in 2014: a massive spike — more than tenfold — in social media activity pushing anti-Ukrainian propaganda, approaching levels last seen in the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. That was something that didn’t have a lot of past precedent at the time. But, to us, we see that as an indication of efforts to influence inside and outside, of course, as well.
We’ve also seen evidence, as we’ve noted here, of Russia making plans for significant, aggressive moves against Ukraine.
So, I would say our objective — or the President’s objective is to, on the front end, always lead with diplomacy, have those conversations. We’re having them directly with Russian leaders. The Secretary of State obviously met with his counterpart last week. And we’re having those at a range of levels. The President is speaking with President Putin tomorrow. But in the meantime, to prepare a range of options should they decide to move forward.
Q Why do you — why will your efforts this time be more successful than last time? Why do you think they will be?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we will see if they are. But our objective, first and foremost, is to prevent the move forward, the military progression that we saw happen in 2014.
Q And I have one quick question on testing. Last week, obviously, the President explained some ramp-up in testing, but there are still a lot of countries, like Germany and the UK and South Korea, that basically have massive testing, free of charge or for a nominal fee. Why can’t that be done in the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, you know, we have eight tests that have been approved by the FDA here. We see that as the gold standard. Whether or not all of those tests would meet that standard is a question for the scientists and medical experts, but I don’t suspect they would.
Our objective is to continue to increase accessibility and decrease costs. And if you look at what we’ve done over the course of time, we’ve quadrupled the size of our testing plan, we’ve cut the cost significantly over the past few months, and this effort to push — to ensure — ensures you’re able to get your tests refunded means 150 million Americans will be able to get free tests.
Q That’s kind of complicated though. Why not just make them free and give them out to — and have them available everywhere?
MS. PSAKI: Should we just send one to every American?
Q Maybe. I’m just asking you — there are other countries —
MS. PSAKI: Then what — then what happens if you — if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?
Q I don’t know. All I know is that other countries seem to be making them available for — in greater quantities, for less money.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we share the same objective, which is to make them less expensive and more accessible. Right?
Every country is going to do that differently. And I was just noting that, again, our tests go through the FDA approval process. That’s not the same process that — it doesn’t work that way in every single country. But what we’re working to do here is build on what we’ve done to date and continue to build out our testing capacity, because, Mara, we absolutely recognize that this is a key component of fighting the virus.
Q Thanks, Jen. On Russia, first: You said that the goal is to prevent Putin from invading. So what is President Biden willing to threaten, in this phone call, will happen if Russia invades, just beyond more sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think that it’s not about threats; it’s about conveying that the right path forward here is through diplomacy.
In the meantime, on financial sanctions, we’ve consulted significantly with our allies and believe we have a path forward that would impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy. You can call that a threat. You can call that a fact. You can call that preparation. Whatever you want to call it. But that is something we’ve talked about publicly, and certainly the President would convey that as well.
Q Is President Biden prepared to warn that there’s the possibility of U.S. military involvement if Russia invades Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s conversation, but that is not our first objective.
I would note that, in the past, if you look back at 2014, that one of the outcomes here, if they were to decide to move forward, is that the other countries in the eastern flank, in — many of them NATO partners — will be looking for reassurance from the United States. That’s something that was a follow-up to 2014. I’m not sure that is what Russia wants to see. But that would be a natural consequence if they were to move forward as well.
Q And then, on China, did the White House consider going a step further and barring U.S. athletes from participating
in the Games?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into additional considerations. All I can convey to you is where we landed and the decision that was made and why.
Q And why did you make that particular decision? Why not bar U.S. ath- — why not go further and bar U.S. athletes from the Games?
MS. PSAKI: Because not sending a U.S. delegation sends a clear message that we cannot conduct ourselves with business as usual, that we are not in a state for business as usual as appropriate, at a time where there are human rights abuses that we have been outspoken about, that we have taken actions on. And we feel this sends a clear message.
At the same time, we believe U.S. athletes — people who have been training, giving up a lot of blood, sweat, and tears preparing for these Olympics — should be able to go and compete. And we look forward to cheering for them from home.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Jen. On the violent crime spike that we’ve been seeing, there have been smash-and-grab robberies, there was the pretty alarming murder in the wealthy Hollywood neighborhood last week, and then an attack — a violent robbery in Pacific Palisades on Friday. This is sort of similar to the crime spike that we saw over the summer. And one of the President’s biggest pushes to address that was the DOJ strike teams that were sent out to those five cities; it was D.C., New York, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco.
Since those strike forces were assembled in July, have they accomplished anything?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think we sent those strike forces in part because of the spike in gun violence — something that continues to be a concern. And we sent them — the Department of Justice, I should say — sent them in order to work in partnership and in lockstep with law enforcement on the ground.
We’ve also recently taken steps. The Justice Department, the FBI, and federal law enforcement have been working with local jurisdictions — especially areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and others where we’ve seen a rash of break-ins — to offer their assistance and provide assistance through multi-jurisdictional task forces.
We know that we’ve seen over the course of time — while we’ll let other people determine what the cause and effect is, we know we’ve seen an increase in crime over the course of the pandemic. We’ve seen that timeline.
What the President has been focused on doing is working to ensure there’s funding to support local cops, to support local jurisdictions; to ensure that law enforcement at a federal level is a partner, both in the short and long term; to address either these spikes in crimes or gun violence, which is an ongoing concern; and to ensure there’s adequate funding in the budget.
So that’s what we are working to do. The Department of Justice, I’m sure, can provide you an update on the strike forces.
Q Are you talking about the funding in the Build Back Better plan then?
MS. PSAKI: The funding in the President’s proposed budget, which was an increase, significantly, over what former President Trump proposed.
Q So are you saying that passing the spending plan would address crime then, in that way?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m saying that passing the President’s budget, which is something obviously we want to get to next year — since we could only get to a short-term CR — has a significant increase in funding to support police departments, support the fighting of crime, and a significant increase from former President Trump and something the President supports.
Q And then is there any concern that not having an ATF nominee while all this is going on is somehow leaving vulnerability or a gap in leadership?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our collective view here is that the blocking of a fully qualified, experienced former ATF agent from serving in that role certainly is something Republicans didn’t have to take the step to do, but here we are. So, we have to nominate a new person. And when we’re — when the President finds the right person, I’m sure he’ll be prepared to do that.
But again, we could have had a nominee — somebody who was qualified, ready, and prepared to serve in that role confirmed and working.
Q And, real quick, I just want to ask about the Washington Post article. There’s another article that’s come out after a string of articles detailing dysfunction in the Vice President’s office. And then, the Director of Operations put out a tweet today talking about how much he loved his job. There was a similar sort of social media push this summer following some negative headlines about ongoings in the Vice President’s office. Did anybody ask the Deputy Director to put out a positive tweet today, or was that all him?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any asks for a positive tweet or a specific tweet. I would point you to the Vice President’s office. But I work with a number of people in the Vice President’s office who certainly are looking forward to continuing their jobs.
Q Jen, did President Biden give President Xi any kind of a heads-up about his intention and decision-making with this diplomatic boycott?
MS. PSAKI: When they spoke a few weeks ago?
Q Yes. Or —
MS. PSAKI: It was — the Olympics —
Q — or before your announcement today.
MS. PSAKI: — the Olympics were not a topic of discussion during that call.
Q Will he? Will there be any conversations between the two governments explaining the decision-making?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly lower level than President Biden — they were made aware of the decision.
Q And on the call tomorrow with President Putin, the President says he expects it will be a long one. Of course, tensions with Ukraine will be a major topic of discussion but not the only one. How much time do you anticipate will be devoted to that versus the follow-ups from the Geneva Summit on strategic stability and cybersecurity?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly expect Ukraine to be a major topic of discussion during the conversation, but there are other topics that we also expect to receive some attention.
So — and I understand the desire for an understanding of the breakdown. I expect we’ll have a better breakdown once the call actually happens that we can provide to all of you tomorrow.
Q And, finally, just on COVID, Dr. Fauci said yesterday the Africa travel bans are being evaluated “on a daily basis,” that it’s possible the policy could end at any time. So what would the White House need to see happen in order to lift those bans?
MS. PSAKI: It wouldn’t be the White — it would be a recommendation from Dr. Fauci and the health and medical experts that we should pull back those travel restrictions. And that’s something that’s being evaluated and discussed on a daily basis.
Q Back on Ukraine, just to distill it down to a couple of important terms of art: Does the President view the current territorial integrity of Ukraine in the vital national security interest of the United States?
MS. PSAKI: I would say: Of course, we view the territorial integrity of Ukraine as a vital interest — global interest — for the global community. And it is of our interest to ensure there’s stability across Europe. But I’m not going to give further definition to it.
Q Okay. So — but if they answer is yes, it means one thing; if the answer is no, it means —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t — I think you’re asking this in, sort of, you want a yes-or-no answer, and I would say foreign policy is a little more nuanced than that. So, keep going. What’s your next question?
Q Next question has to do with the return of the Migrant Protection Protocol —
MS. PSAKI: Yep.
Q — the “Remain in Mexico” program. Immigrant rights advocates say that the idea that the United States government is going to be able to facilitate lawyers for migrants who want them is an empty promise. What can you say to assure those people that, in fact, you’ll live by that commitment?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say first to all of these people that it is not our preference to be reimplementing and reinstituting the Migrant Protection program. We — Protocol. We are doing that because of a court order and legal requirement to do so, and that we have put in place a number of changes to make — from the Department of Homeland Security — to improve some humanitarian components. But we still feel that the program is inefficient, inhumane, and we are not — we weren’t — we were — did not eagerly reimplement it, I should say.
But in terms of people who are skeptics, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can, as we are required by court order, to implement this, to take steps to ensure that there are — that we are injecting additional humanitarian considerations and providing the assistance that we have promised to people who are participating in the program.
Q Jen, David Barnea, the chief of Mossad, is in town. He met with the CIA Director a few minutes ago. So he’s trying to push, as a military option, against the nuclear plants in Iran as a last resort. Would President Biden support this option in case that negotiation does not make any progress?
MS. PSAKI: Well, every President has a range of options. I’m not going to outline those from here. Our approach, our desire continues to be a diplomatic path forward. The last rounds of meetings were disappointing, and Iran did not come to the table prepared to make progress on the sixth round of negotiations. All of the negotiators are back at home having consultations. I’ll let them do that and give them the space to do that.
Q I have a couple of questions.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q First, just to go back to Build Back Better, obviously we know that the President is talking about drug pricing in that bill in a few minutes. But, you know, I think the big question is still just, you know, where Senators Sinema and Manchin are on this. It has been four months at this point.
As the President and senior staff work on negotiating with them, are they confident that that’s something they can actually get done in the next couple of weeks with those individual people? I know, overall, the committees can do their work but still been this — there has been this — these sticking points for quite some time, and they don’t — they haven’t seemed, in their public comments recently, to really be yielding all that much. So how do you handle that from here? And is the President planning on speaking or having either of those senators over in the next couple days or weeks?
MS. PSAKI: We have been in close touch with a range of senators, including the ones you mentioned, at a senior-staff level, and I expect that will continue. And, of course, Leader Schumer certainly understands and knows that you need the vast — the majority — every single Democrat — in order to successfully move forward with a vote.
But in the meantime, he is leading the effort to do important preparations to get to that point. And obviously, the President is highlighting the components of the package on prescription drugs that lower the cost, that ensure that people who are — the millions of Americans who are dealing with covering the cost of insulin don’t have to choose between that and food or share insulin with other people, as some of the stories he’ll outline today will tell you.
But in terms of what individual senators will do or where they are, I really — they have to speak for themselves.
Q The Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court is holding its final public —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — meeting tomorrow to vote on their report that will go to the President. How are your — what are your plans for how the President will — and the White House staff — will process that information and then respond to it? Will — you know, that came from an executive order with an 180-day timeline, so will there be a shorter timeline for an evaluation of this?
I think that you’re seeing, just since the oral arguments last week on abortion, a lot of concern among a lot of people on the Democratic side about the Court. And — you know, how are you going to kind of respond and move forward on those issues?
MS. PSAKI: Well, so, as you noted, later this afternoon, it will be posted, and then there’ll be a meeting and they will — tomorrow, I believe — and that will be the next step in the process.
The President will then get the report and will have time to review the report, but I don’t have a timeline for how long it will take him to review the report.
I would remind you all: It’s not recommendations that he either accepts or denies. He asked this diverse group of experts from a range — from across the political spectrum, from across the viewpoint spectrum to look at and assess a range of issues that have long been discussed and debated by Court experts, whether it is how cases are taken up or the length of individual justices serving or Court expansion, and to assess and provide a review of that — not to make, again, “here are the five recommendations; accept them or deny them.”
So that’s the next step. It will be posted. You all will see it. And then, in terms of when — how and when the President will review it and what that means, I will give him the space to do that.
Q Okay. But there’s no — there’s no kind of plan at this point of how you will (inaudible) to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’ll have to review it first. And I don’t think we’re going to set a timeline for what that looks like and what it will mean after that.
Q Thanks, Jen. Thanks, Jen. The Biden administration today put out a big report about addressing corruption. I want to ask you two quick and hopefully pretty easy questions about that.
Shortly after President Biden’s virtual meeting with the Chinese President, the First Son’s attorney said that he has finally divested from a Chinese investment fund controlled by state-owned entities. I was hoping you could commit to basic transparency about that transaction, including the name of the buyer, the dollar amount, and the timing.
And the second question is: My colleague Miranda Devine has a new book out called the “Laptop From Hell,” and I was hoping that you could confirm that the laptop is indeed authentic and not Russian disinformation, as you seemed to suggest on Twitter last year.
MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first, the President’s son is not an employee of the federal government, so I’d point you to his representatives. And as it relates to the book, I have neither had the time nor interest in exploring or reading the book.
Go ahead, Tina.
Q But the First Son’s attorney —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Tina.
Q — didn’t give any information on the transaction.
MS. PSAKI: I think I answered your question.
You can go to the representative of the person who is not an employee of the federal government.
Go ahead, Tina.
Q Yes, but he doesn’t give any information on that.
MS. PSAKI: I think we have to move on. Go ahead.
Q Is there anything the White House is doing to help parts of the U.S. where we’re seeing hospitals that are overwhelmed again with the Delta variant, like parts of Massachusetts and New York? Is there any help that can be sent out to help them?
MS. PSAKI: Let me check on it specifically. What we have done over the past and I suspect we’re doing now — but I just don’t have the information in front of me — is working with state public health officials to ensure we are sending surge resources to them. Because, as we’ve talked about a fair amount in here, it’s not just the vaccines, to your point — it’s ensuring that there are health and medical experts as needed, additional resources; sometimes it’s, you know, medical needs or medical equipment needs. And we’ve been really surging those on an as-needed basis. So I will check and see, on Massachusetts, if there’s anything in addition.
Q Also, if I could just ask about if the White House is concerned about the Child Tax Credit expiring on December 15th. Is that something that’s being discussed with Senate Democrats in negotiations with them?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely we’re concerned, as should millions of Americans be. And that is an area that is a part of the President’s Build Back Better Agenda and why he and we are so eager to get it done.
Q Thanks, Jen. You said, in response to Ashley, of the President’s belief that democracy is always a work in progress and that you have to push yourself to do better, as well as pushing other people to do better. So what does the President believe the United States needs to do better?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, first, when the President took office, he — one of his key objectives is restoring trust and faith in not just government but in institutions, and doing that in a range of ways. That means not only respecting and valuing the freedom of press and media here and around the world; it also means ensuring we are speaking out against human rights and ensuring we are taking steps to address corruption around the world. We just put out a major report on corruption today, too, in advance of the Democracy Summit.
So what I was getting at, I think, is — and I think why you were asking — is that it is not — you know, we are continuing to work hard, do better, ensure we are protecting our own democracy here at home. And I think it is — there — it is unquestionable that as people around the world, countries around the world looked at the events of January 6th, looked at what happened here in the United States, it was clear that when the President came into office, this was going to be front and center on his agenda, and it has been.
Q Shifting gears on one other question —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — besides Build Back Better, what legislation, realistically, does the President think that Democrats can pass into law before the end of his first year in office?
MS. PSAKI: Before the end of his first year in office?
MS. PSAKI: So, let’s see — next January? Look, there’s a lot of steps —
Q It’s about six weeks away now.
MS. PSAKI: It is six weeks away. Look, I’m not going to get into the legislative calendar; I’ll leave that to Leader Schumer to take steps on. And I’m not going to give a timeline on it, but the President obviously wants to get his Build Back Better Agenda done as soon as possible.
He wants to get — make voting rights a reality. He wants to get police reform done. He wants to ensure that the CHIPS Act passes through and we can ensure that we are taking additional steps in a bipartisan manner to address the supply chain crisis. He wants to get his nominees through.
So there’s a lot that he would like to see happen in short order, and we’re going to continue to work with leaders to do that.
Q Two quick things: Are you going to do a readout later of these leader calls?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, after the call this afternoon? Yes, I expect — I expect we will.
Q Okay. And then, lastly, did you have a reaction to the court in Burma finding Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of charges of incitement?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, I believe that we put out a statement from — or the State Department put out a statement. But let me reiterate some of these key points, Steve:
The Burmese military’s regime — military regime’s unjust conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi and the repression of other democratically elected officials are yet further affronts to democracy and justice in Burma. The regime’s continued disregard for the rule of law and its widespread use of violence against the Burmese people underscore the urgency of restoring Burma’s path to democracy. We urge the regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all those unjustly detained, including other democratically elected officials.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Jen, is the President going to attend Bob Dole’s funeral this week? And if he does, will he be giving a eulogy for his friend?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, I certainly understand the question. I’m just going to leave it to them to finalize and announce any details of the funeral for former Senator Dole.
As you saw in the President’s comments yesterday, obviously he’s somebody he considered a friend; somebody he respected; somebody, even when he disagreed, he felt was a lion of leader in his time in public office.
Q And on Russia — one quick one.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q The Russians are urging people to not have high expectations going into this call tomorrow –
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — between the presidents. In that the White House message too?
MS. PSAKI: I think it is. I mean, our objective here is that this is an opportunity. We had been talking about having a conversation about a range of issues. The President believes in leader-to-leader diplomacy, and this is an opportunity to convey very clearly and directly where we have serious concerns, including as it relates to Russia’s military activity on the border with Ukraine, and to reaffirm our own support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
It is certainly up to President Putin to make the decisions about what steps he is or is not going to take.
April, why don’t we do you as the last one?
Q Thank you. Back on MPP, really fast.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Haiti is included in that. What is the update on the investigation that Mayorkas was having on that?
MS. PSAKI: On the —
Q On the situation of Haiti.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know that the Department of Homeland Security has put out comments on that. I don’t have anything new to update you on in terms of the status.
Q And when it comes to COVID, advocacy groups are very upset that many of those who are coming into this nation are not being vaccinated, and they say it’s a ripple effect. As you talk about getting vaccinated and boosters, what do you say to that?
MS. PSAKI: I would say, first, that for MPP, for individuals who are being — are in Mexico and are coming in for court hearings, they would be offered a vaccine. And also, we are still implementing Title 42 because we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, which means that for people who are trying to irregularly enter the country, that would still be applicable.
Q Thank you.
Q Jen —
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone. We’ll do it again tomorrow, everyone. We got to wrap it up.
1:53 P.M. EST