James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:09 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone. I want to — apologies for the late start. The Administrator was meeting with the President — giving the President an update. And so, we wanted to make sure we had her with us before we came out, given the day.
So, again, good afternoon, everyone. This morning, Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida as a major hurricane. Our administration is prepared to support any needs that may arise as Idalia moves through Florida and into Georgia. Personnel and resources from across the federal government and from our voluntary and nonprofit partners are ready to assist.
Later today, the American people will hear directly — they will hear directly from the President. He will speak about our efforts to respond to hurr- — to the — to Hurricane Idalia and on our — and our ongoing commitment to help the residents of Maui recover after the tragic wildfires earlier this month as well.
But before I turn it over to the FEMA Administrator for an update on Hurricane Idalia, we want to make sure all of those experiencing the effects of Idalia are — or are on the path — to make sure that they are staying safe.
If you are experiencing hurricane winds, storm surge, and flooding, don’t venture outside. Listen to warnings of local officials and shelter in place. Do not enter flood waters since there can be chemicals and debris.
If you are in the projected path of the hurricane, please remain alert, closely monitoring any changes in its — to its path, listen to local and state officials for guidance and evacuations notices, and finish your preparedness.
The President and our entire administration — our entire administration are committed to supporting all communities impacted by the hurricane. With — we will be with you every step of the way, as we have been when we have — when we have to deal with these types of disastrous situation — hurricanes, extreme weather.
This is an administration that will be with this community from before — before it started, as you all know — from what you heard the President earlier this week and also the Administra- — the Administrator after it hits. And we will be there until they are able to rebuild.
With that, Administrator Criswell, welcome back.
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: All right, good morning, everybody. And thanks, Karine. And I’ll just jump right in.
I did just have an opportunity to brief the President on our current response efforts for Hurricane Idalia, which, as all of you know, made landfall early this morning.
While we were in there, the President contacted Governor DeSantis to let him know that the federal family continues to be there to support him. The governor expressed that all of his needs are met currently. And the President reiterated that if anything is needed from the federal government, we will be able to support, and we have over 1,000 personnel currently deployed, prepared to support not just Florida, but all of our states that are in the path as needed.
While I was in there, the governor also — or, the President also directed me to travel immediately into the area, and I will be traveling later this afternoon to join Governor DeSantis tomorrow to do assessments and see firsthand what the impacts from this storm are. And I can be able to report back to the President exactly what I see, what we think the needs might be, and where the federal family can continue to assist.
Before I touch more on Hurricane Idalia, I also want to address the second reason that I am here at the White House today.
Today I will also join President Biden alongside his Cabinet and agency officials who are supporting the response and the recovery efforts on the ground in Hawaii as we continue to help the people of Maui rebuild and recover over the long term.
The whole-of-gov- — this whole-of-government approach is what is needed to get the right resources to the people of Maui — the resources and the assistance that they need and that they deserve.
Now back a little bit to what we know so far on Hurricane Idalia. While it is still too soon to assess the total damages, we know that the storm made landfall as a Category 3, which means over 120 mile per hour winds and up to 10 inches of rain in some areas. Peak storm surge in some places along the coast — it has peaked right now, but it could surpass, once they measure, over 15 feet of storm surge. And we’ll get exact numbers as they’re able to go in and assess what the total storm surge was.
And in fact, Idalia is the strongest storm to hit this part of Florida — to make landfall in this part of Florida in over 100 years.
But FEMA and the entire Biden-Harris administration — we were prepared, and we were ready to support the needs of this storm. As I mentioned, we have actually over 1,500 federal responders that are on the ground in the affected area. This includes over 300 personnel from FEMA, as well as over 500 Urban Search and Rescue personnel ready to support any of the state’s requests.
As of 7:30 this morning — and I know these numbers are dynamic and fluid — but as of 7:30 this morning, there are nearly 300,000 customer outages for power in Florida. And we do expect those numbers to continue to rise as the storm passes through and goes into Georgia. And we’ll see power outage numbers for Georgia, South Carolina, and perhaps North Carolina.
Our partners at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are pre-positioned to support power restoration, and they have over 30 generators that are pre-staged.
Additionally, the utilities are preparing for storm impacts, including pre-staging crews and equipment outside of the projected storm track, and the state anticipates a total of about 30,000 to 40,000 linemen in Florida to begin to assist in the power restoration efforts.
People that are still in the storm’s path, however — as you heard from Karine — they should not venture out into the storm, and remain sheltering in place if your local officials are telling you to do so.
However, if you are in trouble and you need immediate assistance, please call 911.
As you do go out, do not wade in the water. Do not drive through flooded roads and streets. Just remember: “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.”
Unfortunately, we see so many fatalities after the storm passes. We want to make sure that everybody is taking the right precautions to keep themselves safe.
And as always, please continue to listen to your local officials as the storm continues to pass over Georgia currently and into South Carolina.
Please check on your friends and your family and your loved ones, especially older adults and people living with disabilities, to see if they have any needs.
In closing, I just want to remind people that this is still very much an active situation. Remnants of the storm are still affecting Florida. As we speak, the storm is over Georgia and moving into South Carolina. People there and in the Carolinas will continue to experience impacts throughout the day today and possibly into the weekend.
Again, FEMA is well postured with our federal partners to support Floridians during this time of need and stands ready to support other affected states as needed.
With that, I can take any questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you. Administrator, what are you most concerned about over the next day or two, since you just said it’s too early right now to assess the extent of damage in Florida?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah. My biggest concern is those people who chose not to evacuate. And I know that our local first responders, the heroes that are out there in those local communities, are doing an amazing job already of going into the areas where people did not evacuate and helping to get them to safety. I think that is our priority through the day today — is to make sure that everybody is safe after the storm has passed.
As we go into the next few days, we’re going to want to assess what the total amount of the damage is and see what immediate needs need to be put forth in order to help support and start the recovery process.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeremy.
Q Thanks. Administrator Criswell, thank you so much. Could you just take us a little bit into that briefing that you had with the President today? What is he most concerned about? What was he most focused on? Any other direction that he gave to you other than to fly down to Florida?
And then secondly, you said that Governor DeSantis is satisfied with the federal response, doesn’t need anything additional. Was there anything else discussed on that — on that call?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah. The — the President’s main concern is making sure that we are — are bringing everything that we have in to support these states as they’re having immediate response and lifesaving needs or beginning to start their assessment and their recovery process.
I think it’s incredibly important that — that our governors know that — that we are ready and postured to bring in all federal resources to support any of their lifesaving and their life-sustaining needs in the very near future.
The conversation with Governor DeSantis was that — you know, reiterating the fact that we already have over 1,500 personnel there in the area to be able to support. And the governor currently has no unmet needs. But as we begin to assess — right? — as the governor assesses and as I get on the ground tomorrow to assess, we’ll see what additional needs might be there and if any of those resources need to be employed or we need to move more into the area.
Q And has the President spoken yet with the governors of Georgia or South Carolina as well, or any plans for that to happen?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: I believe he was preparing to contact them after I left so I could come to this briefing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Thank you. Administrator, to what extent do you attribute climate change as a cause of this storm and the other weather events that we’re seeing over the last weeks and months?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah. You know, I’m not going to attribute the cause of the storm. But what I can say is that we are seeing an increase in the number of severe weather events.
And what we saw with this storm, as we have seen with several of other hurricanes over the last few years, is that they are intensifying more rapidly due to the elevated heat of the water temperature in the Gulf or in the Pacific or whether it’s in the Atlantic. These storms are intensifying so fast that our local emergency management officials have less time to warn and evacuate and get people to safety.
This is something that we have to take into consideration as we build our preparedness plans, as our local communities build their preparedness plans and how they’re going to communicate and prepare their communities for the types of storms that they’re going to face in the future.
Q And secondly, and more specifically, on this storm, do you have any sense or is it too early now to say what the cost of recovery will require or will be?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah. It’s far too early to even estimate what the cost is. It’s still unsafe in many parts to even go out. That’s what’s going to happen over the next several days is to really get a good understanding and an initial estimate of what we think the costs will be and what the amount of impact to these communities has been.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Selina.
Q Just to follow on that, with what you’ve seen so far, how long do you think it will take to get that full assessment? And how long will it take to understand the costs of the recovery efforts?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah. We have rapid assessment teams that have been pre-positioned, ready to go out as soon as it’s safe to do so. And so, tho- — those are personnel that will integrate in with the state personnel to go see what the damages are.
But we also use technology, right? We use aerial imagery and satellite technology, and we use our geospatial information to get a better idea so we don’t have to physically put people out there. And it allows us to make these types of decisions much quicker than we’ve been able to in the past.
And so, again, it will take several days to get a full understanding of what the initial assessment — damage assessment is. But it will take longer to get the full picture of the total amount of impact to these communities.
Q And yesterday, you had said that FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund was running low. With what we’ve seen from this storm so far — there’s also the Maui fires — do you think there’s enough funding? Are you confident there’s enough if there’s another extreme weather event in the next month?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah. So, yesterday, as I announced, I directed my personnel to implement what we call Immediate Needs Funding, and that prioritizes the remaining funding within the Disaster Relief Fund to support those lifesaving efforts.
I believe, through this effort, we have plenty of funding to be able to support our ongoing efforts in Maui, as well as this event, to include Florida, Georgia, South Carolina as needed.
But we are monitoring it very closely, right? Every day, we are looking at what the cost of these storms are as we approach the end of this fiscal year. And if we have another storm, we’re going to have to closely monitor what impact that’s going to have and any other actions we might have to take.
Q Administrator, thank you for being here. As we do approach the end of the fiscal year, as you’ve just noted — just getting a little bit down the road — these take weeks, months to recover. FEMA’s involvement will go on for quite a long time.
Back in 2013, when there was a government shutdown, FEMA had to furlough its nonessential staff. Right now, what potential impact would a government shutdown — as lawmakers have considerations about whether to fund the government — have on FEMA’s ability to care for those in both Maui and in Florida?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: I mean, we always want to take account to what our personnel are doing and — and how we’re using our personnel to support these events. A government shutdown does not impact our personnel that are funded through the Disaster Relief Fund, and so they’re able to continue operating and supporting all of the immediate efforts and lifesaving efforts that continue to go on.
And we also — for our other staff — can designate our — our emergency essential personnel to support any lifesaving efforts. And so, we have plans in place, as we have gone through this before, on how we would staff our — our agency to continue to support those efforts.
Q And if I can follow up about the Critical Needs Assistance that was provided to those in Maui — $700 in payments to individuals there. Given the cost of living in Hawaii, specifically in the Lahaina community, is anything being done right now? Are there considerations or efforts being made to try to raise that cap — that $700 figure — for those who are there?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah, the $700 figure of Critical Needs Assistance is really just that amount of funding for some of the very immediate needs that individuals have.
Every year, the — the main part of our assistance, which is our Individual and Household Program, adjusts annually based on inflation. This year, it’s $41,000 of a cap that individuals can get. That will get raised after the fiscal year. I — I don’t know what that number is yet. But we do adjust that main portion of the funding that goes to individuals annually based on inflation.
Q So, $700 is it for now, and then they can pursue those other monies going forward? But if people have run through that money, right now they’re on their own until they get access to the further assistance coming?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah, and we already have — I think it was 12,000 individuals that registered for assistance in Maui and somewhere over $15 million that’s out on the street. That number could be higher right now from that other program.
Q Thank you, Administrator.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q I know that you and the governor and local officials, state officials have all told people they need to get out of the way of this storm. So, my first question is: Are you satisfied that people heeded those calls, both from you and — and local and state officials?
And then secondly, you mentioned the search and recovery teams that are sort of deployed and ready to go. What’s your assessment so far on what those needs look like if people are sort of stranded right now?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah. So, on the first question, I think many people did heed the warning, but unfortunately, many did not, right? We’re already getting reports of people that chose to stay, and they’re getting calls into the local first responders to come in and assist them.
And if anybody needs assistance, they should — they should call 911, and those local first responders will come in and help.
As far as the — the entire footprint of those resources that are available: It’s a combined effort recognizing the capability that the state already has with all of their resources, and we have additional resources that are integrated in with that operation.
So, if we need to immediately augment, we have resources that are ready to deploy as soon as requested, without hesitation and without interruption.
Q But is it clear yet how many people may be stranded?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Oh, I don’t have a number on how many. No.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q From the initial assessment, what would you say are the most damaged areas? And what was the response from the population in those areas to the government’s instructions?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: I would say that initial reports are in that Big Bend area that have had the greatest impact. They have experienced the greatest amount of storm surge. They experienced the greatest wind speeds. And so, when we do get out to start assessments, that would be my anticipation of where we would experience the greatest amount of damage and impact across Florida.
Q And how did people respond in those areas?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Again, I think many people did heed the warnings. And there was a lot of public messaging that went out there to let people understand that the danger is not just the cone of the hurricane, but it’s the storm surge and the water, which is creating and causing the most fatalities in these events.
But, again, many people did not — as we are hearing about our first responders going in to support rescuing people from their homes that are now stranded.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. We’re going to wrap — we’re going to wrap it up. We’ll — way in the back, and then (inaudible).
Q Thanks. On the Immediate Needs Funding, I’m curious if you have recognized the potential long-term, ongoing recovery efforts that could be at risk here.
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: I — so, if I understand, the — the long-term recovery efforts based on right now or what it looks like going into the next fiscal year?
Q Going into the next — next fiscal year, which ones are at risk here if you do not get the funding you need?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Yeah. So, what Immediate Needs Funding does is — the work does not stop, right? The projects continue to go underway — our longer-term recovery projects for the variety of disasters that we’ve experienced over the year. The obligation or the reimbursement of the funding for those is delayed into the next fiscal year.
If it gets delayed into the next fiscal year, then that just starts us out at a smaller balance of what we had anticipated our needs would be for fiscal year ‘24.
Q Are there any ongoing efforts, though, that you’ve identified that would be at risk if it comes to that?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Again, the funding it — or the work itself does not stop. It’s the funding that just gets delayed into the next fiscal year.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed. Last question.
Q I’m going to take you back to Hawaii, if I could, Administrator, because there is still a lot of questions among officials in Maui and Lahaina and across Hawaii about who was in charge in the hours as the fires burned and in the hours after. You’re a veteran local emergency management official, state emergency management official, now at the federal level — how do you assess how officials there responded? Are there lessons to be learned, perhaps, for other communities? And is your agency prepared to work with congressional Republicans if they launch investigations, as they say they will?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Again, I was not there during the response, and so I would be out of line to assess how they responded during the time because I did not experience what they were experiencing.
What the federal government does is: We come in and we support their efforts, and that’s exactly what we did. And we will continue to support their recovery and their rebuilding efforts as they move forward.
Q Were you be properly briefed by FEMA authorities in Hawaii that would have been working with those officials?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: What I was briefed on throughout the time is my Regional Administrator Bob Fenton happened to be in Oahu for another meeting. And he was engaging with the team and giving us updates as to the spread of the fire and what the population was impacted and what the potential federal resources would be needed to come help support the initial response in the ongoing recovery efforts.
Q And if congressional Republicans want you or other agency officials to testify about what went on in Hawaii —
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: I’m happy to —
Q — are you willing to do so?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: — testify on what the federal role was in this process.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, everybody. Thank you so much.
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: All right, thank you.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Safe travels tomorrow.
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, one — one thing before we continue. Thank, again, the Administrator for — for coming today and yesterday to provide all of you an update.
So, as Acting Labor Secretary Su announced today, the Department of Labor is supporting one of the basic tenets of Bidenomics: that a hards day [hard day’s] work should lead to a fair day’s pay.
This proposed rule would deliver on the tenet by restoring and extending overtime protections to 3.6 million salaried workers. The Biden-Harris administration recognizes the benefits of a growing economy are only broadly shared when you have politics [policies] that empower workers.
We’ll continue working to build an economy that works for working families. The President and the Vice President are committed to ensuring that all workers are paid fairly for their hard work.
With that, Darlene, you want to kick us off?
Q Yes. Thank you. Two questions. First on Africa. The President had promised in December that he would visit this year. It’s now September; a trip has not been announced. Just wondering if today’s coup in Gabon, the recent coup in Niger, and others in recent years make it any less likely that he will visit. How will those destabilizing events factor into whether he ultimately goes or not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you asked me about if there’s any U.S. concerns, domino effect potentially, as we’re seeing what’s happening over the last couple of months or so: Look, we remain focused on working with our African partners and the people to address challenges and support democracy — that is something that, certainly, the President is steadfast on — which is also the best foundation for development, social cohesion, and stability in Africa.
President Biden has been clear about the United States commitment to deepen and expand our partnership between the United States and African countries, institutions, and people as well. We stand with the African people in working towards these goals.
I don’t have anything to announce about a — about a potential scheduled trip for — for this year. The President is still very much committed to going to the continent.
As you know, the Vice President has been there. The First Lady has been there. So, you’ve seen a commitment throughout. And also, other Secretaries, clearly, in this administration. So, you’ve seen a commitment from us of the — for the continent.
We had a very successful, as you all know, meeting with African leaders just last winter. That went very well. And that commitment continues.
As soon as we have a date and a location clearly laid out, we certainly will share that with all of you.
Q And then a second question closer to home. Will the President stay in Washington this weekend, given what’s going on in Florida? We don’t know the extent of damage. The week ahead had him leaving on Friday to go home to Rehoboth for the weekend.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you just heard directly from the Administrator, we do not have an assessment. Obviously, she’s going to be going to — to Florida tomorrow at the President’s direction. And she will be with Governor DeSantis throughout the day.
I can confirm, before coming out here, the — the President did connect with Governor Kemp of the — the governor of Georgia, obviously. And so, that conversation did — did happen. He’s also going to try and connect with the governor of South Carolina.
So, as the Administrator said, the situation is still very dynamic. I don’t have any changes or any additions to the President’s travel. You’re going to hear from the President directly who is going to speak about the continued efforts to prepare and respond to Hurricane Idalia.
Following those remarks, as you all know, he’s going to be meeting with his Cabinet and agency officials to continue our coordination of federal response. So, that will happen.
He will always continue to — to be engaged directly with local elected officials. I just — we just mentioned that he spoke to the governor of Florida, spoke to the governor of Georgia. He’s going to reach out to, certainly, other elected officials to ensure they have what they need on the ground — the resources that they need to deal with the impacts, the — certainly the aftermath of this particular hurricane when — when we are able to assess and see what — and they are able to see what their needs are.
We — you hear us say this often — you heard it from the Administrator; you’ve heard this from — from us: We — this President is committed to being there for the community, for the people who are — certainly have been impacted by this hurricane, you know, today, tomorrow, as long as it takes to help them all get back on their feet. So, that will not change, obviously.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Thanks, Karine. Two foreign policy questions. The Kremlin acknowledged today that the plane crash that killed Prizhogin [Prigozhin] may have been a deliberate act. Does the White House have a response to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean — I was, you know, kind of asked us this question yesterday. I don’t have any new assessment or anything to share with what the Kremlin or Russia — the government may have shared.
What we — what I have said yesterday continues to be the case. It pre- — it seems pretty evident what happened here.
You know, as the President said recently, and I’ll quote him, “There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin is not — is not behind.” And that was not just predictable, but it was predicted — the very same words I used yesterday.
So, we all know that Kremlin has a long history in killing its opponents. We know how — how forthcoming and — and if — if I will, how forthright Prigozhin was in the — in — in these past — past several weeks or couple of months. And so, this is not surprising.
I just don’t have any new assessment, regardless of what the Kremlin or the government of Russia wants to share.
Q On a separate topic, Nigerian police raided a — a gay wedding and arrested 67 people there today. I’m wondering if the White House is tracking that and has a reaction.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, this is the first I’m hearing of that. I haven’t spoken to our teams here about that particular — that particular incident.
Look, you know, we’ve been very clear: The President — when it comes to LGBTQ community, he is — he is — has been an ally and supports that community. He will continue to do so. He will always speak out when it comes to any type of humanitarian mistreatment, even across the globe. And he has always been very forthright in talking to leaders about that.
As it relates to this particular event, I just don’t have a comment for you at this time.
Go ahead, Jeremy.
Q Thanks, Karine. There’s a report in Bloomberg that the President — sorry, that the Assistant Secretary of Health has recommended rescheduling marijuana as a Schedule III drug. I’m wondering if the President would support that move.
And secondly, just where does the President currently stand on the issue of decriminalizing marijuana?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President actually asked the Secretary of HHS and also the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review how marijuana is scheduled.
As you know, the administration process is an independent process — led by HHS, led by the Department of Justice, and guided by evidence. So — so, I’m not going to comment on that. We’re going to let that process move forward.
And again, it’s going to be an independent process that’s led by HHS and DOJ. So, any specifics on that, I would refer you to HHS.
Q And more broadly, on the question of decriminalizing, which would be going further than this, of course.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, he’s — he’s asking HHS and DOJ to — to take a look at it, to do an initial administrative kind of process or review, if you will. It’s going to be an independent process. They’re going to certainly use the evidence. It’s going to be guided by evidence.
And so, I’m going to leave it to HHS and DOJ to — to move that process. And so, we’re just not going to comment specifically on it.
Q And then, the President is about, sort of, a week away from heading off to India for the G20. He’s scheduled to be in Rehoboth this weekend. Given all of those scheduling concerns, how likely is it that the President would make it down to Florida before heading abroad? Is that a goal of his: that he would like to try and get down there before he goes out of the country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, don’t have any schedule additions or travel to add at this time or to share at this time. Clearly, as you just heard, the Administrator is going to go there tomorrow, is going to be with the governor. And that is at the President’s direction.
When it comes to any type of travel as it relates to, certainly, these types of unfortunate disasters, the President doesn’t want to take away — clearly — from what’s going on on the ground.
As you know, the President has a big footprint when he travels. So, we want to make sure that the community, the elected officials, the local leaders — certainly, the people have and get what they need in this time after it is the — we have the assessment and we see the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia.
So, I don’t have anything to share.
Clearly, it’s something that the President always looks forward and always wants to be there for the people who are affected by these types of disasters. And — and certainly you’ve seen him, in many different states, be there and talk directly to — to Americans who are — who are there and living through this moment.
But we just want to be incredibly mindful. This is a dynamic situation, and we want to make sure they have everything that they need at this time.
Q Obviously, lots of issues facing the President — the presidency this week, but two others that, sort of, gauge the sense of presidential awareness or involvement.
You were asked yesterday about the situation in Guatemala. I noticed the Secretary of State reiterated support for the results there. Is that something that’s reached the President’s attention, who has expressed a lot of concern about democracy versus autocracies in the world? This is a situation two doors down from the United States. Is he aware of it? And would he be willing to meet with Mr. Arévalo were he to come to Washington before becoming president?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President obviously is kept up to — up to date by his National Security Council and his — his foreign policy advisors on all of — any dynamic or any situations globally. Clearly, that is something that the President is — is kept — kept abreast.
I just don’t have anything to share on any future upcoming meeting at this time. As you know, we congratulated the new leader. And — and, clearly, all — his — his election was confirmed by — by the certified vote results.
And so, just don’t have anything to share or anything to announce about a potential meeting.
Q You were also asked yesterday about potential White House involvement or at least awareness of the UAW labor situation. How about the Writers Guild, Screen Actors Guild negotiations? We’re at about day 120-plus with the writers, 47-plus with SAG-AFTRA. These are members and these are companies that have close, at least, political, ties to this President. Just curious if he’s been briefed at all or talked to anybody involved in those —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I —
Q — or who in the administration might be talking to them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, regardless of political ties — right? — this is a president that has been — that has been called by many labor folks — right? — that he is the — the most pro-union president ever. And so, this is a president that believes in collective bargaining. This is a president that believes, certainly, of the right of — of workers to strike. We’ve been very clear about that.
And as it relates to the writers and also the actors, we believe they have the right to — to be able to — to — you know, to — to ask for fair wages and fair benefits. That’s why collective bargaining is so important. And we have seen it worked over the — even the past several years while this president has been president, during his tenure.
So, that’s what the President is going to continue to call for — for folks to come to the table in good faith, have those conversations, do that collective bargaining that the President supports.
And so, I don’t have anything else beyond to — to share. But again, this is the most pro-union president, and this is a — he’s incredibly proud of that record.
Q In the hours and days ahead, how frequently does President Biden intend to get briefed on the storm?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Regularly. Daily. Multipl- — multiple times a day. You’re going to hear from him in — in a few minutes. You heard — the Administrator was here today briefing him. He was here — she was here yesterday, in person, briefing him.
This is something that the President is keeping a very close eye on, as all of you are following this very closely.
This is important. It doesn’t matter if we are in a — this is not about politics. We should take politics out of any type of disaster that we see that the American people are having to suffer or deal with.
And so, this is not about politics. This is — for the President, this is about being a president — a president for all Americans. And so, he is going to be closely watching this, getting updated regularly to make sure that the people in Georgia, in South Carolina, in Florida are getting exactly what they need. And so, that’s going to be the President’s focus.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask about a possible government shutdown. Some conservatives have been — on the Hill have been talking about it not being a big deal, that no one will really notice. Can you talk a little bit specifically about what would continue to work during a shutdown and what would stop?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I appreciate the question. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.
Here’s what we know, and here’s what I have said when I’ve been asked this question: It is that there’s no reason — there’s absolutely no reason at all for Congress to shut down the government. There isn’t. And this is a question for Congress to answer.
The — this should not be happening. And they should fund these vital, vital government programs that the American people rely on. And these are critical needs we’ve requested — when you think about what we’ve requested and asked for when it comes to emergency funding — right? — when it comes to what we came to the table for, when it comes to the budget agreement.
This was a bipartisan agreement from both sides. And so, there’s no reason — no reason at all — that Congress should be — should be going down the path of shutting down this government.
Q Can you — can you confirm, though, at least that federal criminal proceedings would continue in a shutdown, including those involving the former president?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That would — you would have to ask the Speaker of the House and the Congress on that question. That is not something that I can speak to to — here.
Q But not federal criminal proceedings?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — you — you would have to reach out to Department of Justice. You would have to reach out to Congress, whatever it is that they’re doing on that side. That is something for the Department of Justice to speak to. That is not something for me to speak to.
But I will say that our — when it — as it relates to the engagement that we have been having with the Hill on whether it’s the — whether it is government funding or any kind of legislative process. Look, we have our OMB Director, Shalanda Young; our Legis- — Legislative Affairs Office have been in regular contact with them. We are engaging with congressional members on the Hill, and that’s going to certainly continue.
Q I want to ask you quickly, the President — President Biden awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal to two Fulton County election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, in the past.
A federal judge today ruled in favor of those women, who had sued Rudy Giuliani for defamation, ordering that the attorney — that Giuliani pay sanctions.
Just your thoughts on this now that it has been completed? It’s no longer in the hands of the courts. The judge has delivered her ruling. What do you make of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to comment on that at this time.
Q Thanks, Karine. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had another episode in which he froze while answering questions today. I know the President spoke to him the last time this happened and when he has had previous health issues. Do you know if the President is aware of this, and whether or not he’s likely to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I haven’t spoken to the President, so I — I don’t know if he’s aware of this.
Q And then, secondly, on Labor Day. I wanted to follow up to see if there are any announcements for how the President is going to mark Labor Day this year.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I just — just to step back on your question about Senator McConnell. Clearly, we — we wish him well, a speedy recovery. As you know, the two of them are — are — have — have worked together and have known each other for some time. But I can’t speak to a call or a conversation. I just haven’t asked the President about that.
As it relates to Labor Day, clearly, that’s a day that the President enjoys celebrating, as it is an important day for the labor community. I just don’t have anything to share.
Once we get closer to that — to that date, certainly, we will lay out what the President plans to do.
Q At the beginning of June, the White House announced the Education Department was going to be appointing a coordinator to address book bans. I asked Education Department for a status update and couldn’t get an answer. So I’m — since we’ve got students returning to the classroom now, can you give us an update on when this effort is going to start?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that is something for the Department of Education to speak to. I don’t have an update for — for — for you at — on that particular question.
But, again, that’s something for the Department of Education. I know they’re going to announce somebody. I just don’t have it right at this time.
Q So they are going to be announcing someone in the next —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have — I know they said that — that was announced that there was going to be a book czar. Sorry, I just don’t have anything for you at this time.
Q Would it be possible at some point to get a description of what this coordinator has done, what schools they’ve reached out to, what that outreach has looked like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, that’s for — something for the Department of Education to speak to directly.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks. New York Governor Kathy Hochul is meeting with Chief of Staff Jeff Zients today to discuss migration. Can you tell us a little bit more about that meeting? And then I have a follow-up to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, as you just mentioned, we are hosting Governor Hochul today here at the White House to continue our close collaboration and to underscore all the ways in which this administration has supported communities who are ho- — who are hosting asylum seekers and ways we are working together to increase access to work authorization. So we’ll have more to share about the meeting later today.
But yes, she is indeed here and is going to be meeting with members of the President’s team.
Q Okay. I have another follow-up. But will there be a readout of that from the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We will have more to share later today on the meeting. I just don’t have anything specific on how that’s going to look like.
Q Okay. And Hochul and other Democrats have been pushing the administration to expedite work authorizations for asylum seekers who are already here. Does the administration see that as a viable solution to getting people out of shelters faster?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to get ahead of — of the conversation that they’re going to have.
I do want to say that DHS met recently with state and local. This is the assessment team that you’ve — you’ve heard us announce not too long ago. They met with local and state officials and to — to outline — and they outlined nearly two dozen ways or recommendations to strengthen certainly their operations.
The administration, across several departments and agencies, identified a number of federal sites across New York State for housing. Additionally, the Department of Interior is negotiating a lease of Floyd Bennett Field with the city and state, so that conversation that continues to happen. Again, that happened, I believe, on Monday.
When it comes to the work auth- — authorization, look, this administration has led the largest expansion as it relates to pathways — lawful pathways in decades, and we are committed to building a humane and safe and orderly immigration system. Those who arrive through those lawful pathways are immediately eligible to request an employment authorization document. That’s how that process works.
As it relates to this con- — this particular conversation and what has been requested by New York, I’m — I’m just not going to get ahead of the meeting that they’re going to have today.
Q A couple of follow-ups on the spending questions that you got. Lawmakers are already, sort of, talking about a proposal that perhaps would be a CR in the December — kind of a shorter-term deal. Is that acceptable to the President? Would he be okay with that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is something — I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. That is something that Congress — Congress should — should kind of decide on — on the length of a continuing — continuing resolutions. That’s som- — something that I defer to them.
Q And then related to that, I know you said that the administration — Director Young, others — are already engaged with lawmakers. Are you’re — has there been an expression of sort of red lines, sort of priorities or cuts or provisions that would be unacceptable to President Biden that would not get signed into law?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as I said, we have had continued calls with them, continued engagement with members of Congress to lay out the urgency and the important nature of making sure that we do not shut down and we continue funding the government. That’s going to continue. I’m not going to get into red lines. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals from here. There is no reason for Congress to shut down the government. And we’ll be — continue to be very, very clear about that.
Q Thank you very much. There’s a new book coming, “The Last Politician: Inside Joe — Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future.” The Guardian has excerpts today saying the President has told aides in private that he felt tired and that explains why there are so few events before 10:00 a.m.
So, two questions: Is this why we’re seeing brunch lids in recent weeks? Today, we had a breakfast lid. And has the President admitted to you —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, say that last part.
Q So, is that why we had a breakfast lid this morning? I mean, there — the book is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A what?
Q There was a break- — the breakfast lid came to the press —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay.
Q — for the first time, I think. We’ve had some brunch lids in recent weeks as well. So my question is: Is that a reflection —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So you think we’ve had those lids because the — because of this excerpt?
Q Not because of the excerpt. The book is suggesting the President tells aides he’s tired.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But that’s in the excerpt, right?
Q Yeah. And that that’s why there have been so few public events before 10:00 a.m.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, that’s a ridiculous assumption to make.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, that’s a ridiculous assumption to — to make.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thank you. Eric Adams, the New York mayor, is saying about these migrants in New York City, “Any plan that does not include stopping the flow at the border is a failed plan.” So, why aren’t you guys stopping the flow at the border?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We are stopping the flow at the border. If anything, the — what the President has been able to do on his own, without the help of Republicans in Congress — something that he had to do on his own, again, because Republicans refused to give the funding necessary to deal with a situation imm- — a broken immigration system that has been broken for decades.
They choose — what they choose to do is play politics, but the pers- — the President has put a plan that is — indeed, the data is showing is — that it is indeed stopping, slowing down the flow of unlawful migration. And that is because of the work that this President continues to do without — without the help of Republicans.
Q Okay. And it seems like the hurricane response so far is robust. Did you guys realize that the initial Hawaii wildfire response was not that good or is it just easier for people to get help from the White House when the President is not on vacation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the premise of your question and the way you pose your question, I disagree, just for the record.
So, if you talk to — if you were to do your reporting and speak to the governor of Hawaii, the senators of Hawaii, the folks on the ground, they would say that the President reacted in record time when it came to dealing with the wildfires, when it came to dealing and making sure that they got everything that they need on the federal level to deal with what was going on on the ground.
Let’s not forget, there were more than 600 federal employees on the ground already to assist with the wildfires in Maui.
So, your question is — is wrong — it’s flawed in many, many ways. And I would — I would — I would advise you to go speak to the governor and the local and state officials in — in Hawaii.
Q Thanks, Karine. Putin is supposed to visit China in October. This is the first visit — if it happens, this is the first visit after a warrant of his arrest has been issued. What do you make of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to speak to Putin’s travels. I — I was kind of asked this question yesterday. It doesn’t change. I’m not going to speak to his travels.
Q One more question on Russia. I know — I understand you don’t want to comment on the Prigozhin plane incident. But many U.S. officials went on the record and said having him march toward Moscow, it was a sign of weakness. Now, killing him, doesn’t that reflect a sign of strength in your assessment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I — I’ve answered the question. I mean, the President basically said there is not much that happens in Russia that Putin is not behind.
I mean, you know, this is — this was not just predictable, but it was predicted. We have said: We know that when it — the Kremlin has a long history — a very long history in killing its opponents.
So I think we’ve been very clear here about — about — about our thoughts. I’m just not going to — I don’t have any new assessments. I don’t have assessment to make. But there is a history here, so I’ll leave it there.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to go back to the question you were answering about legal pathways for migrants and the work authorizations. When I’ve spoken to advocates, people who work with parolees when they arrive in the United States, sponsors, the number one thing they say is how long it takes to get work authorization.
I didn’t hear you talk about necessarily what you’re doing to speed that up, given that you’ve opened these pathways so that people can come here temporarily from certain countries.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just to give — give a little bit of how this works: The process for applying for asylum and applying for an employment authorization based on asylum applications is established under current immigration laws and can only be changed by Congress. That’s how this process works.
The law established 150-day waiting period to apply for work authorization and an additional 30 days to be eligible for approval. That’s how the process works.
Again, this is something that Congress put forth. And the only way that it can change is with — through Congress.
Q And have you asked Congress to work on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’ve had — had — asked Congress to help us just revamp and —
Q But that issue specifically.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — deal with a broken — in — in many different ways, including this, to help us revamp and actually fix a broken system. We have asked Congress to do that from day one.
Remember, the President put forth a comprehensive immigration reform legislation. So, this is something that the President has made a priority. The first piece of legislation that he put forward dealt with the immigration system.
Again, this is something that — this is — when it comes to this system, the President wants to do this in a humane way. And he has taken actions to work on this issue on his own without the help, certainly, from Republicans in Congress.
Q I also wanted to ask you: Administrator Criswell, when she was here yesterday, talked about — and again today about the rise of extreme weather, this idea of FEMA having to deal with an unprecedented workload. Is the President thinking about at all — outside of your funding request to Congress — any changes in structures within the White House, any changes within agencies that would help support what we’re seeing, which is more extreme weather more often, more people needing help?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I don’t have — I don’t have anything to share about structure within the administration. But I would say this —
Q Or resources beyond — without Congress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’ll say this. We’ve asked for $12 billion — right? — FEMA has asked for — for FEMA to continue to doing its work. That conversation is going to continue. Obviously, she — the — the Administrator laid out what that means for — for her work.
As it relates to extreme weather, one of the reasons the President has called climate change a crisis and done the work — historic work that he’s done on dealing with climate change is because of that — right? — is because we’re seeing this change of pattern. We’re seeing how rapidly and how quickly this — this extreme weather — hurricanes are coming about. That’s what the Administrator just said.
And so, look, there’s a lot of work to do. The President has taken this very, very seriously. That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act was so critical and important — the biggest investment in dealing with climate change. That’s why the Bipartisan — the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is so important.
So, this is work that the President is going to continue to do to deal with an issue that is a crisis not just here, but globally.
As it relates to any changes within the administration, I don’t have anything for you on that.
Go right behind you. Go ahead.
Q The Afghanistan withdrawal ended two years ago this week. Does President Biden plan to commemorate the events and the people who were killed or left behind as that happened?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, the President put — had a statement recently, when it came to the anniversary of Abbey Gate.
So, we just want to state this as it was stated in the President’s statement that we’ll for- — “forever honor the memory of the 13 service members who were stolen far too soon from their families, loved ones, and brothers- and sisters-in-arms while performing a noble mission on behalf of our nation.”
And the First Lady, certainly the President, and our entire nation will always support those families.
And so, look, the President has said on many occasion that ending our longest war after 20 years was the right thing to do. He refused to send another generation — you’ve heard him say this — of Americans to fight a war that should have ended a long time ago.
America is no longer — is — is no longer there, obviously. It is on a stronger footing, more capable to — to meet our security needs around the world because we are not fighting a ground — on the ground — a ground war in Afghanistan. And we continue to put our assure- — to put pressure on al-Qaeda and ISIS-K, while also focusing on terrorist threats elsewhere.
And so, that’s going to be the President’s focus: to make sure that our homeland is protected, that Americans are protected. And that’s what the President’s focus is going to continue to be.
I have — I have one more question.
Go ahead, Peter.
Q A question about North Korea — the missile launch earlier this morning.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Anything you can say about that?
And then, also, we heard about increased cooperation between the Russians and the North Koreans with respect to weapons for the Russians. I’m wondering if the President would consider meeting with Kim Jong Un because of this increased cooperation and he can’t seem to get a response from the North Koreans.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. And I know my colleagues spoke to — spoke to — this is Russia and North Korea — just recently during a gaggle. So, just to reiterate what he said is — in part due to the success of U.S. sanctions and export controls, you know, Russia has been forced to turn to rogue regimes, like the DPRK, to try to obtain weapons and equipment to support its military operations in Ukraine. We have previously warned that Russia is actively seeking to acquire additional munitions from the DPRK.
Today, as my colleagues shared, we shared new information that arms negotiations between Russia and DPRK are actively advancing. Russia’s Minister of Defense recently traveled to the DPRK to try to convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Russia. And our information indicates that, following that visit, another group of Russian officials traved [sic] — traveled there for follow-up on discussions about potential arms deals.
Any arms deal between the DPRK and Russia would directly violate a number of U.N. Security Council res- — resolutions. We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia. And we are taking action directly to exposing and sanctioning individuals and entities working to facilitate arm deals between Russia and the DPRK. So, we will continue to identify, expose, and counter Russia attempts to acquire military equipment from the DPRK or any other states that is prepared to support its — to support its war in Ukraine.
As it relates to the — to the missile, we condemn — we’ve been very clear about this — condemned the DPRK’s latest b- — ballistic missile launch. This launch is in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and possesses [poses] a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and international community.
We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and call on DPRK to engage in dialogue, as we have for some time now.
Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea, Japan remains ironclan [ironclad].
Any specifics on that, I would refer you to INDOPACOM and for — for any additional comment. And just don’t have anything else to add on that.
Q If they’re unresponsive to your calls for engagement, would the President consider a meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have a meeting to — to speak to at this time. But, look, we are —
Q Would he consider one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We just don’t have anything to share on that at this time.
What I can say is that we are — we — our lines of o- — communication is open. We’ve been very clear on that.
I just don’t have anything to share on a potential meeting.
With that, I’ll see you guys tomorrow. Thanks, everybody.
Q Thanks, Karine.
2:01 P.M. EDT
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