Aboard Air Force One
En Route Denver, Colorado
5:25 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, guys. Hi, hi, hi. How are y’all doing?
Q Fine. How are you?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Continuing our — our journey headed to Colorado, as you all know.
So, just a couple of things at the top before we get into Q&A here. So, President Biden and the First Lady were honored to join today’s beautiful tribute ceremony in honor of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. The President and the First Lady shared a private moment with President Carter before the ceremony and were able to express their condolences directly to the Carter family.
As you all know, the warm, embracive relationship between the two families go back decades, and the First Family is holding President Carter and the entire Carter family close to their hearts.
Tomorrow — as I just mentioned, we’re headed to Colorado, but tomorrow we’ll be in Pueblo. The President will tour CS Wind, the largest wind tower manufacturer in the world. He will deliver remarks on how Bidenomics is mobilizing investments in clean energy, manufacturing, and creating good-paying jobs in communities across the country, including more than $7 billion in Colorado since he took office.
In fact, outside groups estimate that Inflation Reduction Act has helped create over 3,500 good-paying clean energy jobs in Colorado in the one year since the President signed the law.
The President will highlight how self-described MAGA Republicans, like Representative Lauren Boebert, are threatening those investments, jobs, and opportunities. Not only did they vote against the Inflation Reduction Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the other historic investments, but they are trying to repeal them, which would hurt the communities they represent.
We’ll have more details on that visit, including a factsheet, for all of you in the coming hours.
With that, as you all know, the Admiral is here to give us an update on what’s happening in the Middle East and any other foreign policy questions you may have.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine.
As we’ve talked about for quite some time now, the President and the entire national security team stays very much engaged in what’s going on in the Middle East hour by hour to get aid in, to keep the pause in place, and to get hostages out.
So, to that end, today, I think you may have seen the first of what will be three military flights, C-17s, landed in Egypt today with humanitarian assistance: food, water, medicine, supplies. Some 54,000 pounds on the first aircraft. We expect two more aircraft to come in coming days.
Also, on the ground, another 200 trucks got in through Rafah, and another 200 joined 200 that are in the queue. So, now there’s 400 trucks in the queue to get into Rafah hopefully in, again, coming hours and coming days. So, we’re staying at this very, very hard to make sure that that aid gets in.
And we couldn’t do it without the help of President Sisi of Egypt, both in terms of the ground movement and this air movement now — this U.S. military aircraft that we’re using. So, we thank him and — and his government greatly for that.
And then I think you all saw the news on the hostages. We’re in the first day of this two-day extension of the deal. Another 12 individuals got out today: 10 Israelis, 2 from — from Thailand. No Americans, unfortunately, got out today. But we’re hopeful. You know, tomorrow is another day. And we certainly hope that we can see some more Americans come out.
As we have said or I said yesterday and we’ve all said throughout this process, we want to see all the hostages released. And so, if there can be extended pauses beyond these two-days extension, then, you know, we’re in favor of that. And we’re going to keep working on this, as I said, hour by hour with all our partners in the region.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Any questions?
Q Can you talk a little bit about both Ambassador Burns and Secretary Blinken’s travel to the region? It’s going to be a couple of days after this extension would potentially expire. What are their goals? And is the idea here to negotiate kind of a lasting peace versus this pause hostage exchange that we’ve seen going for the last couple of days?
MR. KIRBY: I’m going to be careful about talking about the CIA director and his — and his travel and meetings. But this will be Secretary Blinken’s fourth trip to the region since the attacks of October 7th. He will certainly be meeting with, obviously, our Israeli counterparts and other counterparts in the region.
And, really, it’s not that complicated. It is about making sure that, number one, Israel — Israel knows that they continue to have the support of the United States, that they continue to get the tools, the capabilities, and the weapon systems that they need to continue to defend themselves against Hamas. Number two, it’s all about getting that humanitarian assistance in.
I just gave you a primer on where we are today. And then, of course, it’s the hostages. We know that now with this additional — additional 12 today — so, we’re up around 70 or so hostages out so far, which is good. It’s a good start. But it’s just a start. There are many more. We want to get them all back.
And so, the President has directed the entire team all across the administration, certainly in the national security agencies, to continue to work that. And I think you’ll see that those will be the prime — the prime focuses of Secretary Blinken on his trip.
Q John, I know you guys are disappointed that beyond Abig- — beyond Abigail, these Americans have not gotten out. Do you assess that there’s a reason the Americans are not coming out first? Are they being held back for leverage, or you just don’t know?
MR. KIRBY: There’s no indication at all that Hamas is trying to use leverage or something to keep Americans from getting out. I mean, we’ve got — remember, the first test case of this entire program was two Americans, a mother and a daughter. And then, of course, we got Abigail out over the weekend.
So, there’s no indication that Hamas is trying to play some sort of game here in terms of the — the Americans.
I mean, I think it’s important to remember a couple of things. One, the pool of Americans is pretty small, and the pool of Americans that qualify right now — women and children — is smaller still. Number two, we can’t just assume that Hamas has ready access to everybody at a moment’s notice or that all the Americans are being held by Hamas and certainly not that they’re in the same place.
So, we don’t have perfect visibility on where they are. We know Hamas can get to all the hostages if it wants to, and it has the ability to do that. We’ll keep pressing to get these Americans out as much as we can.
Q And you said you’re hopeful about an extension, but can you give us your assessment of the likelihood of that occurring?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t want to give you a handicap here on this or — or betting odds. I can just tell you that we want to see all the hostages out. The way to do that is these pauses. You need a pause to get the hostages out. You need the hostages out to get — to get the pause. I mean, they go hand in hand.
And so, we’re going to keep working with Israel, with Qatar, with Egypt to see if we can’t extend this more. Because even after tomorrow, Jeff, we’re going to — we know there’s still going to be a pretty good-sized pool of hostages that Hamas has, and we want to see if we can get them all out.
But I couldn’t handicap it for you. I wouldn’t do that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q The President has — has called for limitations on the displacement of Palestinians from South Gaza. Does the administration have any concerns or doubts about the Israeli — especially Israeli lawmakers’ intent about this, given that they’ve stated that they want to see this displacement occur?
MR. KIRBY: The displacement outside Gaza, you’re talking about?
Q Outside Gaza, yes.
MR. KIRBY: We’ve been very clear on our policy. We don’t support displacement outside of Gaza. And, look, most of these people don’t want to leave. It’s their home.
Now, they’ve been internally displaced to a fare-thee-well, obviously — particularly out of the north. And so, as we’ve also said, is — we don’t support southern operations unless or until the Israelis can show that they have accounted for all the internally displaced people of Gaza.
Q John, was that — was that a —
Q Okay. I was going to say, the message that Israel is receptive, you said, to not having attacks on the south of Gaza to be kind of repetitive for this increased displacement to happen, was that a message that U.S. officials were communicating to Israel for a long time now? Is this —
MR. KIRBY: Southern operations?
MR. KIRBY: I mean, certainly, for as long as we’ve been aware that — that they’ve been developing plans to move to the south after they finish in the north. I mean, so, for a few days now.
Q But the mass displacement of Gazans, that has been happening for a while now. So, is this a new message that you’ve communicated to Israel?
MR. KIRBY: No, no. We’ve been very consistent on — on the fact that we don’t support any permanent relocation outside of Gaza. And that, as they’re displaced inside Gaza, that we want the Israelis to account for them in all their operations.
And it’s important — and, you know, obviously, you know this, and they know this; everybody knows this — as they opened up corridors, which we urged them to do from north to south, now you have an added population of hundreds of thousands more in the south that you didn’t have before they moved into Gaza City.
And so, it’s even all that more of a — of an added burden on Israel to make sure that, as they start to plan for operations in the south, whatever that looks like, that they have properly accounted for the innocent life — the extra innocent life that is now in South Gaza.
Q John, what has been their response on this, from Israel, on — on whether they are receptive to this, that they’re going to avoid significant displacement, as you guys have suggested?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t think I’m going to go beyond just saying they’re receptive to that message. I won’t speak for the Israelis. That wouldn’t be appropriate. But we’ve been very clear, we’ve been very consistent, and they’ve been receptive to that message.
Q Also, Israel has said that in renewing their military campaign, you know, they want to get rid of Hamas altogether. Is that something that the U.S. still thinks is realistic?
MR. KIRBY: We believe they have a right and a responsibility to eliminate this terrorist threat. And Hamas showed its colors pretty well on October 7th, and it’s still a viable threat to the Israeli people and to the Israeli nation.
And so, they have said that they’re going to resume operations. I’ll let them speak for their plans and their intentions. But we still believe that they face a truly genocidal threat from Hamas.
Q John, the conversations about this displacement and — and wanting this attack, the — the southern strategy here from Israel to be — to be different, what gives you the confidence that — that Israel will follow through on that? You said they’re receptive, but what gives you the — the confidence?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t go beyond what I said. I mean, we’ve been very clear. They’ve been receptive to the message. They know where we stand on this. But they should speak to their own plans and operations.
Q What’s the difference between advising Israel and telling them what the U.S. wants? Where is the line there that would — in your conversations with the Israelis?
MR. KIRBY: (Inaudible) too much on the vernacular. You know, look, we’re providing advice; we’re proving our perspectives. We have a lot of experience in this kind of warfare. And we’re — we’re doing that literally on a daily basis.
Q Just two on numbers estimates. I know you’ve been steering clear of them, but Hamas authorities are saying — what? — I think about 13,000 casualties. Any reason to think, in light of what the President is reported to have said, if that’s a ballpark?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I’m not going to —
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to be able to speculate on the — on the total numbers. We’ve been careful not to do that. But many, many thousands of innocent people in Gaza have been killed, and many thousands more have been — have been wounded.
Q Any way to calibrate whether — how effective Israel has been in eliminating people — Hamas fighters?
MR. KIRBY: Well, again, I don’t want to speak for them and their operations. I think they have — they have detailed for you guys publicly some of the leaders that they have taken off the battlefield and — and who they’re going after and why. They have, in fact, had an impact on Hamas leadership. But — but I’ll let them characterize the degree of success that they’ve had or what more they’ve — they — what other leaders they feel like they need to go after.
Q John, are there any plans for the White House to have any meetings with the families of Americans who are unaccounted for right now?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not aware of any at this time, no.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks.
Q Is the — is the U.S. planning to reinstate sanctions on Venezuela given recent developments that indicate a failure to abide by their electoral framework?
MR. KIRBY: I’ll refer you to the State — State Department on that. I don’t want to get ahead of where things are.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thanks. Thanks, John.
MR. KIRBY: All right. Yep.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, guys.
Q Karine, you mentioned that the President and the First Lady had a private moment with President Carter. Obviously, we all got to see him and people back home got to see him on TV. Can you give us a sense of how he’s doing and what the President’s impression was of his health?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I want to be mindful. And obviously, I’m not the — President Carter’s physician here, and I don’t want to make judgments on his health. So, I would have to refer you to the Carter Center, to President Carter’s representative. I’m just not going to get into that at this time.
You all saw him for yourselves. I’m just not going to speculate.
Q Can you say anything more about their private moment and what they discussed or how long it was?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It was — you know what, I don’t have the exact timing. They — they were able to, as I just stated, greet — greet the family, greet President Carter, have a special moment for President Carter at the top, obviously before the services started. I don’t have a time for you, but it was a special moment.
They were able — as I mentioned, the President and the First Lady were able to offer up their condolences. They have an embracive — a very long-term, decades relationship. I’m not going to get too much into, obviously, their private conversation, but President Carter and the Carter family are certainly in the — in the — in the prayers — in the Bidens’ prayers.
Q And just lastly on that, we saw the Clintons and Mrs. Obama, obviously, traveling with President Biden and Dr. Biden. Did they also have a moment with President Carter?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that I can’t speak to. I would refer you to their respective representatives. So, I can’t speak to that on their behalf.
Q Karine, Senator McConnell — McConnell said today that he told President Biden last week that, to get any sort of Ukraine or Israel funding, there would have to be credible border security. Is that the President’s understanding? And is — does the White House agree with that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I kind of got asked a little bit about this — this particular border funding yesterday — border security funding yesterday. I’m going to be really careful. I’m not going to go- — negotiate from — from here at this time.
But right now, the conversations are clearly happening with the senators, both Republican senators and Democratic senators, in Senate.
So, I’m just not going to —
Q Can you confirm that — that was the conversation between McConnell and —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, what I can say is I cannot confirm this particular conversation at this time. But what I can say is, as you know, the President has a long- — longtime relationship with Senator McConnell. He has a longtime relationship with many other senators and members in Congress.
And so, oftentimes, he has conversations with them, but I cannot confirm this particular conversations. Most of the times, we keep them private, but I can’t confirm this.
Q Karine, you guys are going to Pueblo. You’re not going to COP28. What was the decision in going to Pueblo and talking about climate instead of going to COP and doing it on a world stage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, this is — this is a president that has taken climate — this climate crisis very seriously, right? This is something — when the President walked into the administration — you all hear me say this a lot, right? He talked about four crises when he walked into the administration.
One of them was the cri- — the climate crisis. And he has taken, you know, historic actions to deal with what we’re seeing now. Right?
If we think about the Inflation Reduction Act, that’s one of the things that — what the President is going to talk about when he’s in Pueblo, Colorado, and how the Inflation Reduction Act is lowering costs. But also, it is one of the — as a historic piece of legislation, it is one of the, you know, legislation that is doing the most to fight climate change — right? — to fight this climate crisis.
So, we’re taking it seriously. We have been since day one of this administration. I think I mentioned yesterday that — and I’m not going to go further into — into COP28 and any — and I don’t have anything to share about anything about attendance of the President. But what I can say is that, as you know, Sec- — former Secretary Kerry is going to be there; John Podesta is going to be there — folks, who are — who are leaders on this issue for the President, whether domestically or globally. And that’s how serious this president takes it.
I just don’t have anything else to share about that.
Q Karine, I had a couple of the President’s comment yesterday about price gouging when he was talking — talking. The first one is just: Are there specific products or industries where the White House is worried that there might be price gouging going on right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things on that. So — so, many corporations — as you know, Justin — have — have seen in- — input costs grow more slowly or even fall recently. Some companies are passing those savings on to consumers, but some aren’t.
And, in fact, prices for producers have grown a lot — a lot more slowly over the last year. Companies should pass those savings on to consumers by lowering their high mark- — markups from the last two years. That’s why taking on price gouging has been part of the President’s economic agenda for more than two years now.
When you think about the President has called — he calls out price gouging when it comes to Big Oil, Big — Big Agriculture, Big Pharma. Promoting competition is a key pillar of the Bidenomics. You’ve heard us talk about that over and over again. He’s signed a historic executive order on competition, as you all know, and this administration has been cracking down on price gouging by banning hidden junk fees.
I’m not going to go into specific industries. I just talked about — actually, I just — I just talked about three of them. But, look, this is something that the President talks about, whether it’s junk fees — right? — whether it’s the executive orders I just mentioned on — on consumer. And it is a place where we see — because of the price gouging, we see American families hurting. And so, we do everything that we can.
We’ve always said that at the center of Bidenomics, of the President’s economic plan is to lowering costs. And companies can actually pass on — right? — pass on — by “pass on,” you know, what — their profit by actually making sure that Americans aren’t paying for it — right? — their — their costs are going down.
And so, we’re not seeing that. The President is going to continue to call that out. And that’s really the focus of one of the — part of the focus of what this President has been doing for the last two years but also, clearly, what he said yesterday in his announcement.
Q There was some reporting suggesting that — that there was maybe an internal tension in the White House between folks who felt like you should do more — continue to promote sort of the raw numbers that show a stronger economy versus those that that say, you know, American — polls, consumer sentiments suggest American consumers and Americans generally aren’t feeling the benefits of the Biden economy.
Was this turn, this pivot towards sort of blaming corporations for — for sentiment a suggestion that you guys are responding to — to that feeling out in the ether?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I get the question, Justin, but I wouldn’t say that. The President has called out corporations many times — right? — whether it’s Big Pharma — right?
We — part of the Inflation Reduction Act is actually making sure that Medicare is able to — to have that — those conversations with pharma- — pharmaceutical companies and lower costs for Americans. Whether it’s calling out the Big Oil companies — right? — we have done that over and over again.
If you think about — about it, junk fees — right? — that’s in line — in line with that. And we’ve made many announcements on how the President is really going after junk fees and making sure that the American people are not paying, you know, insurmountable amounts because of those hidden fees that we see.
So, all of those things we’ve been doing consistently. I think what — the way you should see yesterday is just a continuation of that. And we’re going to continue talking about the data. We’re going to continue to show what — I mean, it’s important, right? The data is the facts to show how inflation is indeed moderating, how the President’s policies has helped put the economy back on its feet.
And so, all of those things go hand in hand. And so — and — and the overarching part of that is Bidenomics, right? This is all what we see as Bidenomics — the President’s economic policy and agenda — but also how we see the how those policies has helped deal with the economy and really helped the American people.
Q Karine, we saw the President hug Michelle Obama and give her a sendoff.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Can you tell us anything about any interactions he had and the First Lady had with Melania Trump? And was she invited on the flight as well as others?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, when we — when we landed, you saw everybody who was on the flight. Obviously, the former First Lady Trump was not on the flight on the way here — on the way to — to Georgia.
I can’t speak of any private conversations that any of the First Ladies may have had with the former — former First Lady Michelle Obama or the current First Lady may have had with — with Mrs. Trump. I just don’t have anything to read out for you.
Q And you probably saw the headlines when we took off that Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, has offered to testify. But publicly, does the White House support that? Would White House Counsel advise him? And should a witness get to negotiate under those terms on how — how they should be able to testify?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, here’s what I’ll say about that is: House Republicans should — should really focus on American families instead of the President’s family. That’s what Americans want to see. They want to see —
I — we just had a few minutes about talking about lowering costs and what matters to the American people just a second ago, and that’s what they should be focused on. Focus on the American families and their needs and what they want and not the President’s family.
Anything else that’s related to this, I would certainly refer you to the White House Counsel, my colleagues (inaudible) —
Q They’re fo- — they’re focused on it. Should he participate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Pardon me?
Q They are focused on the Biden family. So, should the President’s son participate? Should he testify?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just answered your question. I think — I was very clear on what House Republicans should focus on. They should focus on the American family instead of the President’s family.
Q Karine —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — has the President spoken with the families of any of the three Palestinian students who were shot the other — the other night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have a — I don’t have any — we don’t have any calls to read out at this time. Obviously, at the top of the briefing yesterday, I talked about offering up our sincere condolences to the families and also obviously to the victims. And — and we called out — we called out, certainly, lifting up what communities are feeling right now in the Arab community, also in the Jewish community, and — and how hate really has no place here in this country. And this is a President that has been very consistent about that.
We read out yesterday, as well, he spoke to the mayor — the local mayor there. They had a very good conversation. We read that out. We just don’t have anything to share on him speaking directly with the families at this time.
All right. Thanks, everybody.
Oh, you have something.
Q I have a price gouging question. Just is the administration exploring or are there any measures that are being explored on punishing firms that are price gouging when — when it is found to be happening?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything on that, but as you’ve heard over and over from — from us about — whether it’s junk fees, whether it’s price gouging, whether it’s calling out Big — Big Pharma, whether it’s calling out Big Oil, we’re going to continue to do that.
That is actually — that is actually something certainly that the FTC and DOJ have the authority over enforcing any, like, for example, antitrust laws, right? That is something that they can do. So, when it comes to that, we’re just not involved in enforcement decisions.
But the President is going to continue to use his bully pulpit to call it out as he’s done for the last two years. He’s not going to shy away from it.
All right. Thanks, everybody.
Q Thanks, Karine.
5:50 P.M. EST
Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/11/28/press-gaggle-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-nsc-coordinator-for-strategic-communications-john-kirby-en-route-denver-co/