James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington D.C. May 4 12:55 P.M. EDT
Hi, everyone. It's been awhile. I feel like somebody taller than me may have been in here more recently. Let's see. Well, happy — what day is today? — Tuesday. (Laughter.) Happy Tuesday to all of you. We haven't been in here since last Tuesday.
So just a couple of items for all of you at the top. I wanted to provide a brief update on the situation at our southern border. After four years of an immigration system rooted in destructive and chaotic policies, President Biden is taking the challenge head on and is building a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system; that's our objective.
After coming into office, our administration immediately jumped into action to address the influx of migrants at the border — something that began during and was exacerbated by the Trump administration.
And we wanted to provide a couple of data — pieces of data you may have seen, but they've come out since the last time we had a briefing in here.
At the end of March, there were more than 5,000 children in Customs and Border Protection Patrol stations. Today, that number is approximately 600.
The amount of time children spend in CBP facilities is down by 75 percent — from 131 hours at the end of March to under 30 hours now.
And just yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will begin the process of reuniting a number of families who were separated by the policies of the previous administration.
Clearly, we're not done; there's a lot of work ahead. Migration is a dynamic and evolving challenge, but the President has a plan and we're working on implementing it.
Just a few more brief updates for you. As you know, Friday is "Jobs Day." Here we are again. And to mark the occasion, I wanted to convey to all of you that we are going to be welcoming in Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to the briefing room on Friday to provide an update to all of you and take some questions.
And throughout this week, the President, the Vice President, Cabinet members, and other administration officials are fanning out across the country to make a forceful argument for the President's economic vision. The President, of course, began that push just yesterday, in Virginia, to talk about the Jobs Plan and the Families Plan, and it will continue today with the Vice President who will be traveling to — who will be in Milwaukee.
As part of this, we'll also have Secretary Vilsack joining us in the briefing tomorrow to talk about the vital child nutrition proposals in the American Families Plan.
Finally, today, Jeff Zients and members of our COVID Response Team held their weekly meeting with our nation's governors.
This week, over 29 million doses will go out across all of our channels, with two thirds of those doses going to jurisdictions and one third to federal channels.
Jeff reiterated the federal government's commitments to help expand access to the vaccine, boost vaccine confidence, and help states with the unique needs — their unique needs in this vaccination effort.
Zeke, why don't you kick us off.
Thanks, Jen. First, on the President's COVID speech this afternoon: Do you have a preview of what he's expected to say? What should the American public expect to hear from him? And any new updates on the White House policies regarding mask wearing or testing here on campus now that CDCs has adjusted their guidelines last week for fully vaccinated Americans?
Sure. Well, in terms of the President's remarks later this afternoon — I've been doing this long enough not to get too far ahead of him, but I know there's been some reporting out there — so you all and the American people can expect to hear an update from the President on our goals for vaccinating Americans by middle of this summer.
Also, some more updates on our plans to make the vaccine more available and accessible across the country, and certainly some information about what people can expect once they get vaccinated.
In terms of your second question, we are working — our team here is working to determine how we will apply the CDC guidelines that will constantly be updated, as you all know, to our efforts and the work we do here in the White House.
Now, there wasn't — there weren't recommendations or weren't — there wasn't guidance given on workplace use — right? — so we're really talking about wearing a mask outside. I think — when I leave the White House, I take my mask off. If I'm coming back into the White House, sometimes I put it back on when I'm taking the walk just to save some time.
But in terms of the number of people who will be in the building and how we will apply, we're still working through that internally.
And, Jen, there were some reports out of Iran over the week — over the weekend about a potential deal for the release of some U.S. hostages there. I know the State Department has contested that report, but just sort of as the — as a matter of principle, is the President open to a dollars-for-hostages deal, essentially ransom payments, to free prisoners? Or does he want — does it need to be a part of a broader package with the Iranians?
Well, our policy as the U.S. government has not changed on ransom. But I will tell you that discussions to bring home Americans who are held in Iran are something that are raised — that is raised at the highest level through discussions. Obviously, those are indirect. They — those are often indirect discussions, or we have our own channels, of course, and they are separate from the nuclear discussions in Vienna.
But it is a commitment and a desire by this administration to certainly bring those hostages back. But reports over the weekend that an agreement had been reached to exchange prisoners was not true. As I said, we always raise this issue, but there's no agreement at this time to — on the release of these four Americans.
And just one final one. More than 100 days into the administration — when you were up here, at the beginning of the administration, you announced the domestic violence extremism review. Do you have an update on, sort of, where that is?
And what will the final work product of that review be?
Sure. Let me give you an update on that. So as — as you noted, Zeke, on the — we announced early on that we would be undergoing a domestic violent extremism review through the NSD — through the national security team, and we announced that during the President's first week. We — I can report that we completed our policy review in the 100 days we allotted for it.
And right now — and this review, of course, tackled domestic terrorism from a range of angles and was comprised of input from various agencies across government.
So the stage we're in now is that we are taking — we're lear- — taking a look at what — what occurred during that review, lessons that we've learned, and ensuring that the policy responses that we've been discussing and developing are the right ones. That's going to take a little bit of time.
Our ultimate goal from this review has always been to develop a strategy that will convey to the American people an overarching sense of how we'll be taking on the threat posed by domestic terrorism — something the President has talked about as one of the greatest threats we face.
I anticipate an update on that and the policy recommendations will be weeks, not months. But at this point, that's the stage of the process.
Thank you, Jen. Just about Secretary Blinken's comments yesterday about Russia at the G7. He said that the United States wants a "more stable" and "predictable relationship" with Russia. What is —
Secretary Blinken? Just to make sure.
Okay. I think you said "Secretary Clinton," or that's what I heard. But — okay.
No. No. No. Secretary Blinken. And I was — I was wondering: What does Russia really have to do to make that happen, considering the Navalny situation, considering the Russian aggression at the Ukrainian border? How do you have a stable and predictable relationship?
Well, our relationship with Russia includes us voicing concerns where we have them; taking actions and putting consequences in place when actions warrant, as we have in the treatment of Aleksey Navalny, as we did in reaction to the engagement or the hacking of our own election here in the United States.
At the same time, we do think there are areas where we can continue to work together on. This is how, historically, national security relationships and diplomatic relationships have worked around the world.
So I think what we are sending a message of is that we are not looking to escalate the relationship in terms of rhetoric or actions. We are — of course, we reserve the right to put in place consequences should their actions warrant. And we want to have a stable relationship where we will work together in areas where it is constructive, as it — as might — as there might be an opportunity as it relates to the Iran negotiations, as an example. And we will continue to voice concerns as we have them.
And one on sharing IP data — because the administration seems to be under increasing pressure to share IP data from doctors and even some global leaders. Dr. Fauci recently joined industry, during a television interview, to say that that's perhaps not the best way to get shots in arms. And I was just wondering what the official White House view is on that.
I wouldn't say that's an exact characterat- — characterization of his comments or remarks that he made. But I will say that I would expect we'll have something to say about this once the WTO session gets underway. Obviously, Ambassador Tai is — would be making a recommendation to the President. That's not something that has happened at this point.
And obviously — just for people to understand — for everyone to understand this process, because sometimes it's shorthan- — shorthanded in a — on television or in other places — what we're talking about is the United States' position. It's a WTO process, and what ultimately happens here will not be up to the United States alone. This is a waiver that there would have to be agreement among WTO members on.
I think what I saw Dr. Fauci's comments speak to as well — which is certainly our position — is that our objective is to save lives by producing as much supply as possible and getting shots in arms around the world in the most effective way. And we're determining what the right steps are to do exactly that.
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